Armed with flashy footwork and a name that most people won’t even attempt to pronounce, 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj is on his way to becoming a real star for Manchester United.
For those who still struggle to make sense of the seemingly misplaced Js and Zs that make up the teenage starlets name, allow me to help. According to Manchester United, it’s Yan-a-zii. It’s probably not what many were expecting, which is fitting, considering fans around the world had a similar reaction when Januzaj made his first United start back in October and scored two goals in a vital 2-1 away win over Sunderland.
But the jubilation that followed Januzaj’s game-winning entrance into the EPL feels like a long time ago, and the Red Devils are in trouble. At least back in October, United weren’t 14 points behind first-place Arsenal. With manager David Moyes under even more pressure following United’s 3-1 loss away at rivals Chelsea, perhaps the lone bright spot for the United this season has been the emergence of the Belgian-Kosovar-Albanian midfielder.
Januzaj has so far played in 16 Premier League games this season, 10 times as a starter and six times off the bench. With three goals and two assists, his numbers are average, and that is being generous. However, a teenager that can start on a legendary team like Manchester United in one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world deserves a lot of credit. Maybe one of the most impressive aspects of Januzaj is his confidence that is rarely seen in players his age.
Although United did not play particularly bad;y in the defeat against Chelsea, a result that keeps them in seventh place, Januzaj was arguably their best player on the day. Starting on the left wing against a Champions League-winning defender in the form of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, Januzaj regularly danced past the big Serbian, serving in dangerous crosses that were begging for tap-ins.
His ability to beat his man on the dribble and deliver quality service will surely benefit United when players like Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney return from injury.
There is a certain calmness on the ball that makes Januzaj stand out, and despite his slight build, he is not afraid to drop his shoulder and run at players on the dribble. With wingers like Wilfried Zaha struggling to adapt and Portuguese international Nani seemingly on his way out of the club, Januzaj is quickly making the spot on United’s left wing his own.
To the relief of United fans, Moyes has signed Januzaj to a five-year contract that will keep him at the club until 2018, and the hope is that Januzaj can bring the good times back to Old Trafford.