Januzaj situation evokes echoes of Pogba’s Manchester United exit
Manchester United, 5/2 with Coral for an FA Cup triumph, have enjoyed a successful season so far under the reign of Dutchman Louis van Gaal, with the club’s big money summer signings helping to secure a current spot in the Premier League top four.
However its the Red Devils’ youth stars that could cause significant problems for the Old Trafford outfit in the early stages of their careers, including Belgian wonderkid Adnan Januzaj, who recently spoke of his club frustrations.
The 19-year-old was handed his senior debut by former United boss Ferguson on his last ever game in charge, but this season Januzaj has been limited to just five league starts under Van Gaal, and has been deployed in an unfamiliar wing back role.
“I’m not really a wing back. It’s harder for me because there is more defending involved and I’m not really a defender,” said Januzaj.
Old Trafford’s promising playmaker has fallen out of favour under Van Gaal due to the Dutchman’s system of implementing wing backs and three centre backs, meaning Januzaj has either played out of position or not at all.
The brilliant Belgian has been happy to gain minutes on the pitch, but is not sure of what his long-term position should be at Old Trafford.
“It depends on how my football evolves. My favourite position is as a number 10 or a winger. There are lots of players here and I can play in different roles, it’s just a case of taking my opportunities,” Januzaj continued.
“I’ve been a number 10 since I was young and I can play there more easily, but I know I can also play as a winger.”
Januzaj’s career has hit a slight glitch, causing concern among United fans regarding his immediate future but, with his present deal tying the Belgian down until 2018, there may be no need for worry in the Red half of Manchester.
However, with United boasting a wealth of world class stars purchased in last summer’s transfer frenzy, youth prospects at Old Trafford could face a longer wait to secure regular first-team action.
Former midfielder Paul Pogba, now of Serie A champions Juventus, bitterly left Old Trafford in 2012 after failing to convince Ferguson he was capable of handling regular top-flight football.
Since his departure, the Frenchman has rocketed to success in Turin becoming one of the world’s hottest prospects, with Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona reportedly circling for his signature.
Pogba’s magnificent rise to prominence since leaving the Premier League has proved to be one of Ferguson’s few fatal mistakes as United manager, and one current coach Van Gaal should consider a learning tree moment when dealing with his crop of raw talent.
Jesse Lingard was secured on a new long-term deal before being shipped out on loan to Championship promotion contenders Derby County, but does Van Gaal risk losing Januzaj, James Wilson and Paddy McNair because of current competition for places?
Red Devils forward Wilson has taken his chances fantastically when utilised from the bench, frequently replacing Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao in domestic games. Northern Irish youngster McNair, meanwhile, has deputised in defence impressively, following several key injuries and absences to senior players.
Although, with Pogba’s departure in mind, young United starlets may choose to seek a prolonged career elsewhere, as competition for their positions increase with each passing summer transfer window.
Their future could depend on whether Dutch manager Van Gaal is willing to learn from the club’s previous mistakes, and how much more money is splashed in the summer, with a return to Champions League football looking likely next season.
Van Gaal’s rejuvenated Red Devils have climbed to third in the Premier League table and are odds-on 4/11 to finish in the top four.