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Jose Mourinho is an admirer of Adnan Januzaj

Manchester United’s newly-appointed manager Jose Mourinho has brought light, enthusiasm and promise since joining the club, and the entire organization seems to be on a mission to recapture their true essence. Don’t be mistaken, though, the one thing that is set to come more than anything is change. Mourinho, while having obvious similarities to Louis van Gaal, has clear differences as well, and those differences seem likely to come to the fore in the coming months.

One interesting difference may lie in the two managers’ respective views on United starlet Adnan Januzaj, who became quite a divisive figure under van Gaal. After making 35 appearances for David Moyes’ struggling United side, Januzaj became the sidelined figure under van Gaal, making just 28 appearances for United in two seasons after 35 in Moyes’ one year tenure. Though the future seemed far bleaker for Januzaj at the end of van Gaal’s tenure than it did during Moyes’, it seems like it could end up being much brighter by the end of Jose Mourinho’s tenure, because Mourinho is reportedly a fan of the player.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of United’s trip to Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2014, Mourinho was full of praise for the then in-form Adnan Januzaj, mentioning his maturity, skill and general footballing ability and potential. Mourinho spoke about Januzaj’s potential ability to build a fantastic long-term career in football due to his well-rounded skill set and ability to produce magic on occasion.

“He is a fantastic player. He is not 18, he is 25. He is so mature and comfortable. A very good and important player. I just think he is a very good player with the great conditions to have a great long-term career. I don’t know the boy individually, but it looks like he has the lot.”

Mourinho, like many, became an admirer of Januzaj after his first season at United, a season in which he became United’s sole creative spark, going on to grab 5 goals and 8 assists after the two he scored in his Premier League debut. Januzaj’s end product was good for an 18-year-old, but it seemed to be the only thing keeping him from the top bracket of players, even at such a young age. In fact, Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed 6 goals and 7 assists in his first United season, with more appearances than Januzaj, so it was easy to understand why everyone was so impressed.

Januzaj may have fallen out of favour under van Gaal, but there is no reason why he can’t take his talents to the next level under Mourinho. With incredible skill and technique, Januzaj at his best can pose countless different threats to opposition defences. Able to play on either wing, behind the striker or even as a striker (as famously discovered by van Gaal), Januzaj’s versatility should grant him enough opportunities to shine in the first team.

However, Januzaj’s skillsets and versatility could be a part of the problem because it is difficult to tell where he would succeed most. He may not quite be defensive enough to succeed in a midfield three, while his crossing/striking ability is wasted on whatever wing he plays. In the striker position, his lack of physicality makes it difficult for him to play as a target man.

If Mourinho figures out how Januzaj can be best utilized, there is no doubt he can become one of the best players in England. Mourinho unlocked a similar player in Eden Hazard at Chelsea, and if Januzaj becomes anything like Hazard he will be a sure success for many years to come. However, competition is high for places in United’s attacking midfield.

Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Memphis, Ashley Young and Andreas Pereira are all vying for places in the starting team in United’s attacking midfield unit, and odds are United will look to add another player to this set. It is difficult to see where Januzaj’s needed experience will come from.

Januzaj needs to show his Manchester United quality before he will even get the chance to be a United first-teamer. If he shows this quality, however, there will be no doubts that he is fully deserving of his place in the team. Ultimately, it is all up to Januzaj to impress and capitalize on any chance he gets. If his potential and performances are good enough, he will shine, so it is now up to him to work on fulfilling his massive potential.

Written by Aaron Moniz

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