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The decline of Adnan Januzaj

The story so far…

On the 5th October 2013, as Adnan Januzaj sweetly struck home his second of the game, United fans stood up to applaud the new teenage prospect who had just showcased his exciting ability, providing as a match winner in his first ever start for the club. During the first ever post-Sir Alex Ferguson season, Januzaj catered as one of the few bright sparks in a rather miserable year for the reds in which they disappointingly finished the season in seventh place and without a permanent manager.

Being strung into the team and given an opportunity by David Moyes to demonstrate his ability, it seemed at the time that Januzaj was one of the few things that the Scotsman managed to get right during his short 10 month period in charge. The young Belgian’s quick dribbling and eagerness to get forward temporarily improved United’s rather stagnated style of play as he ended the season with a respectable four goals and three assists.

After a first progressive season, Januzaj’s career, however, came to a standstill under new manager Louis van Gaal following his preference to Ashley Young and Di Maria out on that left flank. After failing to score in the Dutchman’s first season in charge where Januzaj was only granted 8 starts in all competitions, the Belgian was shipped out on loan to Borussia Dortmund with the aim of kick-starting his career. The loan itself can be categorised as rather a strange one, as perhaps Januzaj’s development would have benefited more from a loan move to another Premier League team in order to adapt to the English style of play, something he was criticised for at United with pundits stating he couldn’t cope with the physicality of the defenders. The loan move, not to the surprise of some, ended rather drastically as Januzaj struggled to make it into the German side’s starting XI and was soon recalled back to United where he made just seven appearances in the second half of the season.

Reunited with Moyes

After two seasons of disappointment, the return to the ground where it all started reuniting with the manager who gave him his first chance, it seemed written in the stars that Januzaj would rediscover his form and confidence at Sunderland. It seemed that Mourinho had awarded Januzaj with the last chance to showcase his exciting ability at a team that could guarantee him minutes, before deciding on whether or not to renew the Belgian’s contract that expires in 2018.

However even at the Stadium of Light, lightning doesn’t strike twice. Following the lack of game time over the last couple of seasons, Januzaj was perhaps brought in as a sort of ‘wild card’ player to a club expected to struggle this season, where once given the opportunity he would be able to express his exciting talent. After twenty appearances including 17 starts in the league, Januzaj has however failed to replicate the stimulating talent we witnessed when he burst onto the scene at Old Trafford. Although experiencing a disrupting ankle injury, which kept the winger out for six weeks, the failure to consistently perform at a high level has raised questions about the Belgian’s ability.

Not Premier League material?

During his first season at Manchester United we did witness some intricate glimpses of play through Januzaj’s close dribbling ability and agile persona, however, the winger did pick up criticism of going down too easy. The Belgian actually received three yellow cards for simulation and soon picked up an unwanted reputation from pundits and opposition fans for being a ‘diver.’

The incapability to keep up with the physical play of the Premier League could provide pivotal on whether or not Januzaj will continue to play in England. Januzaj’s failure to adapt his agile characteristics and physique to the League is something that we see continuously see throughout players and is actually an instrumental factor behind the failure of many players in becoming a success in England, just ask his former teammate Angel Di Maria.

Perhaps Januzaj’s sluggish step forward in development is further highlighted by the performances of many other young players who are excelling in the League despite possessing the same nature of play such as, Leroy Sane and Anthony Martial.

What next?

After falling short of expectations this season, I would expect the Belgian to be considering his options come the Summer. Whilst fans never enjoy seeing the departure of a youth player, particularly when they once looked to possess so much promise, Mourinho will not be granting a sentimental stay to a player who doesn’t live up to his own expectation.

With a hectic Summer transfer window incoming, it is reported that Mourinho is ready to clear any deadwood within the club and the Belgian could fall under this category. With many clubs surely being prepared to give the winger an opportunity of a fresh start, a permanent move away from Manchester United could be the best move to kick-start Januzaj’s career. If he were determined to pursue his future with the Red Devils then perhaps Mourinho would be prepared to loan him out once more, but with just 12 months remaining on his deal, United may look to cash in whilst they still can.

Written by Joshua Gmerek-Iftakhar

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