Adnan Januzaj is the subject of a potential bid from Sunderland manager David Moyes. Press reports say that any transfer will cost the Wear side club at least £10 million. Jose Mourinho has been considering whether to loan the 21-year-old out or sanction his sale but Januzaj would prefer a permanent move to kick-start a flagging career. Januzaj has five goals in 50 appearances for the Red Devils so far. Most of these came during a breakthrough 2013/14 season where he was the shining light of an otherwise miserable David Moyes campaign.
This fantastic first season earned him the honour of securing the number 11 shirt once Ryan Giggs announced his retirement in 2014. Yet he has shown few signs of living up to his potential or the expectations that go along with that squad number. Januzaj has often appeared across the forward line and has yet to make any attacking position his own. His recent dip in form was exacerbated by consecutive managers displaying trust in him initially, before then dropping him from the starting line-up altogether.
Januzaj may have felt particularly aggrieved by David Moyes’ decision to leave him out of his Champions League squad as a tactical decision to allow an extra player to join the squad for the group stages. Hailed as a star during an impressive debut season, Januzaj was even nominated for BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year after playing only 10 games for Manchester United. The hype increased further with the possibility of the Belgian choosing to play his International football for England.
Originally considered a winger, Januzaj has excelled in that position in the past. Though his relative lack of pace has seen him fall down the pecking order during a fallow period for the Red Devils. In the years since it has begun to feel like his qualities may have stood out due to the otherwise overwhelming mediocrity of the David Moyes reign. An ageing squad that lacked serious pace and hunger, coupled with a farcical title defence that was over by Christmas, had the knives out for Moyes early. One of his only saving graces, and perhaps a factor that prolonged his stay in the hot seat, was the emergence of Januzaj as a genuine hope for the future.
In truth, though, his emergence has now been thoroughly overshadowed by other, more promising academy graduates. As a coach with an eye for a young player, Louis van Gaal was more comfortable trusting Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Jesse Lingard with United’s Premier League fortunes. He was vindicated as these players took their chances well, while Januzaj failed to make an impact during a loan move to Borussia Dortmund.
With this in mind, a transfer to the North East may be the best move for both parties. The high price tag may cause an issue for relegation battlers Sunderland and the player himself may also have reservations about working with Moyes again. Yet as the manager who gave the youngster his chance and allowed him to develop on the premier league stage, Januzaj may look forward to playing for the Scotsman next season. If the deal turns out to be a loan, Januzaj may yet resurrect his Manchester United career.
Danny Welbeck proved there is the potential for a loan move to be a boost rather than a sign of an impending exit when he made the same move in 2010. To succeed, Januzaj will have to show he can perform consistently at the highest level and command a regular position in the Sunderland forward line. Though he has operated out wide for United before with some success, a lack of pace currently works against him in this position. The number 10 role seems to suit his talents best. But to claim this he will have to perform better there than he has done for United in the past.
Should his move to Sunderland take place, he will likely take up a place in the starting eleven. This could prove to be the opportunity that accelerates his development and leads to the glittering career many hope is still within his grasp.