Can Januzaj return resolve Red Devils attacking woes?
Holly Thackeray | January 7, 2016
Will Januzaj’s prodigal return prove prudent?
Premier League challengers Manchester United have recalled attacker Adnan Januzaj from his loan spell with German giants Borussia Dortmund, where the highly-touted talent failed to shine. Now unable to be farmed out again to a third club, could the part-United reared starlet become an important card up the Old Trafford outfit’s sleeve?
The mutual motion to draw a line under this move is undoubtedly best for the trio of parties, allowing Bundesliga big-guns Dortmund to bolster their attack with a player they can develop for their own use, while Man Utd (20/1 to win the Premier League) and Januzaj may just be able to solve each other’s problems. It was not a stint that made sense to begin with.
Ask many a Red Devils supporter what they have lacked this season, and the response will most likely be: an incisive attack.
Often slow and ponderous play has been exacerbated by a lack of options, as Louis van Gaal’s trimming of ‘deadwood’ has seen the Mancunians left with just two recognised first-team marksmen, where once it was a position in which they were arguably over-stocked.
Former Old Trafford poacher Javier Hernandez’s heroic haul for Bayer Leverkusen, has been an often painful, and notable, reminder of this for the club during dry spells.
Attacking instincts to be nurtured
Now, lithe but physically slight Januzaj was always going to be a luxury option, though Van Gaal did begin converting the Belgium international’s grace and guile from winger-come-playmaker positions into a less conventional centre forward option.
The youngster’s abrupt exit stalled this, but could the conversion now continue?
Casting a glance across ex-Anderlecht midfielder Januzaj’s brief BVB record does not make for a particularly compelling case, with three assists and no goals in just 12 appearances.
Though, it was mere months ago that young Januzaj burst into the Aston Villa box, before finishing off a swift counter-attacking move he himself instigated, leaving the Villa backline bamboozled by some fine footwork and an even classier finish.
You can view that sublime strike below but, consider that, with rumoured targets Felipe Anderson (Lazio) and Sadio Mane (Southampton) playing in similarly adaptable roles for their respective clubs, United may save more than a pretty penny by instead chancing on Januzaj.
The aforementioned options could prove a quick-fix but will not come cheap, while Januzaj has long been proferred as a gem just waiting to be polished in the Old Trafford tradition.
Dortmund a learning curve
Spending more time on Thomas Tuchel’s bench in the Bundesliga, where he failed to notch a full 90 minutes, does not bode well for an immediate impact, admittedly.
Yet, there is no need to completely write-off the 20-year-old’s Dortmund displays as a flop, however, with a smattering of stardust glimpsed on occasion (see his only goal, in a friendly fixture, below).
There is no shame if, when with a full roster fit, the club can field more potent attacking competition for places than the parent club which initially loaned the player. Indeed, the BVB boast Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa and their own young prospects.
Though Van Gaal appeared to know this well, as he warned Januzaj against the Westfalenstadion switch, stating: “In a club like Borussia Dortmund, all the players there are also of a certain level and I said in advance, ‘That’s a big risk for you because you have to compete with other players of a higher level’ and that is not so easy.”
Was over confidence the cause of this loan collapse, then? On the opposing edge of the sword, some would simply call it ambition. Either way, United (15/2 to lift the FA Cup) currently lack the dangerous options of Dortmund, leaving clear avenues open for Januzaj.
Borussia blessing in in disguise?
When given pitch time in Germany, versatile Januzaj was predominantly played wide right, which just so happens to be the position in which the Red Devils require a flank threat with pace and a willingness to take on the opposition with trickery, in place of more thoughtful Juan Mata.
Januzaj’s return, should he shrug off murmurs of a poor attitude and application to training, could also ease the significant pressure on fellow fledgling forwards Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay. The pair of summer signings have suffered contrasting seasons, with Martial blossoming but overplayed, while Dutch protege Memphis has floundered.
While, Jesse Lingard’s injury has proven ill-timed but his return could gel nicely with a potential Januzaj revival. The Man Utd academy product knows his peer’s game well and could dovetail nicely, with the duo having played together extensively in youth teams and on tour.
It will be down to Van Gaal, who seems to have survived the axe, to instill confidence and dish out discipline if needed to his undeniably talented charge, with Ryan Giggs also bearing responsibility towards the young-gun who has claimed his iconic number 11 shirt.
Premier League fans used to watching early achievers such as Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney may well expect more from a flair player such as Januzaj, just out of his teenage years. Yet, looking at those two talents now fading dramatically, growing pains should still be the norm rather than exception.
While the Brussels-born schemer may have struggled and seemingly stalled, the reserves of attacking ingenuity that caused former manager David Moyes to drop him in at the deep end are still lurking beneath the surface. Should he bring back a little of the lethal finishing that helped sink Sunderland as he famously burst into the first-team frame back in 2013, he could cause Man Utd to pause and file away the cash with his second chance saloon.
Remember this? See Januzaj shock Sunderland:
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