Manchester United attacking midfielder played the last 30 or so minutes in the 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the International Champions Cup in Santa Clara on Saturday. The Belgian also scored United’s third goal, seconds after Barcelona scored their first through Rafinha. Januzaj was playing as a striker after Louis van Gaal made eleven changes to his side for the final third of the match and after seeing him perform, he could well be that ‘surprise’ forward in the squad next season, but he would need to impress further in order for that to happen.
The 20-year-old first broke into the first team as a winger during the short spell of David Moyes’ time at the club. However the following season, Januzaj was not afforded much playing time, failing to impress when he was given a chance. Yet for the U21 side, the Belgian-born attacking midfielder did well, scoring many goals for the title-winning side. With the departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao, who failed to impress in his season long loan, there is a shortage of strikers in the squad with only Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez proven and James Wilson, who was utilised as a winger against Barcelona on Saturday.
Speaking after the victory over the UEFA Champions League winners, United manager Louis van Gaal praised Januzaj for his display in the final third of the match. Reported by the official Manchester United website, Van Gaal said:
“He was very good. He always gave an option for his midfielders and defenders and he scored a wonderful goal, and that is always important.
“He had to fight with two defenders though it was easier playing against a defence with Gerard Pique.”
Whether this is the sort of thing Januzaj will continue to do remains to be seen. The player has all the qualities to succeed at Manchester United, that is what he has previously shown, but has not reached then level in the senior squad since. If he proves himself as a striker, or even a second striker, he could do well. During the summer, he took a coach from the Old Trafford club to Dubai, along with Luke Shaw. Both players have done a lot to improve their fitness ahead of the new season, both are looking good.
At this moment in time, United are getting a lot of criticism, mainly from Arsene Wenger, about ‘buying the league’, which is not what United are doing, there are merely reinforcing their squad, which needed to be done. Yet, despite United not giving chances to their youth, although seven of them finished the match, most of whom have already made senior appearances, yet people like Wenger need to look at their own squad with many players getting appearances in the Emirates Cup, but how many of those will be blooded into the squad next season? That is the question hypocrites like Wenger need to be answering. Jose Mourinho also hit back at his rivals this season, suggesting they were trying to ‘buy the league’. Another hypocrite right there.