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Adnan Januzaj - The Next Manchester United Star?

Andrew Seah |
October 9, 2013 | 3:12 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Januzaj has been with Man U for two years, but is in for a big payday after this season. (Wikimedia Commons)
Januzaj has been with Man U for two years, but is in for a big payday after this season. (Wikimedia Commons)
His first name - Adnan - is Arabic for 'settler' or 'to stay.' But after his match-winning debut against Sunderland last weekend, Manchester United's latest sensation, Adnan Januzaj, might not even be at Old Trafford next season. His contract with the club ends after this season, and the vultures are already swooping. The 18-year-old bagged two goals against the Black Cats and steered David Moyes' side away from their third straight Premier League loss. 

FC Barcelona is reported to be very keen on the youngster, along with several other top European clubs. There is speculation that Juventus, who recently pried another United starlet - Paul Pogba - from the club, is also keeping track of the Belgian-born footballer. 

Januzaj's agent, Dirk De Vriese, revealed as much to reporters last week. He said, "I’m not going to say which teams are interested in him, but I can tell you that there is interest from several European clubs."

"The departure of Sir Alex Ferguson meant that there was a break in the negotiations, but we are back working on the calls and will see how it goes."

Januzaj, whose name has been mispronounced by fans and commentators to varying degrees, first joined the Red Devils in 2011 at the age of 16. He was voted the 2013 Reserve Team Player of the Year and was first promoted to the first team in last season's final game by Sir Ferguson himself. Ferguson has called Januzaj a "beautifully balanced player," a quality that is immediately obvious from watching him play. 

It was admittedly against a weaker side, a side that shouldn't pose any problems for Manchester United. But it was an away game, and Moyes' side had lost the previous two games. Januzaj's debut was borne out of circumstance, with the club's other wide men roaming the wings - once United's greatest strength - like pale, limp ghosts. He was thrust into the side by Moyes, not so much handed a starting berth as it was a calculated gamble to wake the league champions from their slumber.

But even Moyes didn't expect such a debut. 

It was reminiscent of a certain Wayne Rooney's debut, in which the Englishman seized control of the match from start to finish, bagging an unforgettable hat trick in their 6-3 win against Fenerbache. Januzaj's debut was similar, only less showy, more subtle - just like his game. He glided around the pitch effortlessly, almost as if his defenders didn't expect him to beat them until it was after the fact. 

From the team sheet, he was designated as a left winger, but he assumed a role that was much larger than that. He often found the ball in the middle of the park or in central areas right outside the box, either spreading the play to the wings or linking up with Rooney or Van Persie. He wore the number 10 shirt at Anderlecht, and it's easy to see why many have compared him to Chelsea's Juan Mata or Arsenal's Mesut Ozil - he's a natural playmaker. And although left-footed by nature, he naturally drifts inside and is adept with both feet. He scored his first goal against Sunderland with his weaker right foot, latching onto Patrice Evra's low cross and side footing it with aplomb. 

And as with all breakout sensations, hyperbole should be tempered with salt. Frederico Macheda is one cautionary tale of recent memory at Manchestr United. The Italian, then 17, set the Premier League on fire with a sensational, last-gasp winner in his debut against Aston Villa. He has scored three goals for United since then, and is now on loan to Championship side Doncaster. 

It is clear that United rates Januzaj highly, given their escalated efforts to secure him on a long-term contract. His current teammates have also been impressed by the youngster.  

"A lot of the young players who come through are a little bit timid and shy," said Rooney, "but he looks comfortable and he's confident in his own ability, which you need to be." 

Even former United player and manager Wilf McGuinness is raving about the talented 18-year-old. Speaking with BBC, McGuinness said, "Watching Adnan reminds me of when players like Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and Eddie Colman were coming through at United." 

Januzaj, coincidentally, shares his birthday with another recent United superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and it has been long since the Portuguese dazzled thousands at the Theatre of Dreams. It is too early to proclaim anything - anything! - about Januzaj on the back of a solitary performance. But boy, the lad has potential. 

Reach Staff Writer Andrew Seah here



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