Adnan Januzaj and the last chance saloon

Their team might have won three major trophies, but the last few seasons have been pretty lacklustre for Manchester United fans. They’ve been seasons of little moments rather than sustained success. Just enough to ensure that hope survives. And what is football without hope?

One of these moments occurred in the first and probably the most joyless of the three seasons that came after Alex Ferguson’s retirement. United were away at Sunderland in early October. David Moyes’ briefest of honeymoon period already shattered after a walloping at the Etihad was followed up by a 2-1 home defeat to West Brom.

United went 1-0 down early on in the North-East, but then a young Belgian by the name of Adnan Januzaj entered stage left. Making his very first start, he cracked in two beauties within minutes at the start of the second half. United left with a win. Hope again? Almost.

The boy who can do anything

In a pattern that was to repeat itself in following seasons, United would flatter to deceive. They’d go on a winning run of two or three games – just enough for fans to genuinely believe they’d turned a corner, before losing at home to teams like Everton and Newcastle.

It was enough to see David Moyes lose his job and eventually move on to Real Sociedad, and then to the scene of Januzaj’s introduction, with decreasing levels of success.

Januzaj himself would follow Moyes to Sunderland on loan. But before that, he was one of a select few United players to emerge from the 2013-2014 season with credit.

He signed a new contract worth £30,000 per week and ended the season with 5 goals and 8 assists. United fans were so impressed that one of the most popular songs that season was about the young Belgian.

I want to tell you, I might as well do.

About a boy who can do anything.

He comes from Belgium, his name is Adnan.

Januzaj, Januzaj, Januzaj!

Too good, too soon?

Sadly, it soon became clear that perhaps the boy couldn’t do anything he wanted. Perhaps the hype surrounding him made Januzaj himself believe that he’d made it. The truth was that he was still just starting out.

He struggled under Louis Van Gaal and was eventually loaned out to Borussia Dortmund. This, however, wasn’t the Dutchman’s choice of club. He didn’t feel Januzaj would get as many opportunities there as he would elsewhere, but the young Belgian insisted. Five months and only a few substitute appearances in Germany later, he was back at United. The relationship was broken and barely improved when Mourinho took over. He was sent to Sunderland on loan last season but achieved very little.

Januzaj is often referenced when commentators talk about a new generation of young players that feel entitled. Apparently coaches for both United and the Belgian national team have found it almost impossible to get through to him. His desire and attitude has often been questioned.

A new start in San Sebastian

All this begs the question – why have a seemingly upwardly mobile Real Sociedad paid almost £10m for him?

Well, the talent is definitely there. Having a player that can beat a man and doesn’t fear trying it is pretty valuable for any team. But more than that, La Real are probably banking on Januzaj knowing that this might be his last chance at the big time. San Sebastian might be the Belgian’s last chance saloon.

Januzaj might have struggled in the past with motivation. So how about this to fire him up? Proving to his old club that it was a mistake to let him go. The Belgian was quoted saying something along those lines in the Manchester Evening News. United, after all, have made sure that a buy-back clause was added to his contract.

It’s a great opportunity for Januzaj. Not least because San Sebastian is one of the prettiest little cities in Europe. In a piece for ESPN at the end of June, Andy Mitten mentions John Aldridge’s reaction upon arriving in the Basque seaside city after his move from Liverpool in the early 1990s. He knew nothing about the place but was blown away by it.

A winner’s advice

Januzaj will be playing for a team that finished sixth in La Liga last season and at times was playing some of the best football in the league. If he can nail down a starting place, who knows?

The key will be to prove to his new coaches that he doesn’t have an attitude problem and can work hard. Apparently he was training with Mo Farah in the French Alps in pre-season and sought advice from the Olympic legend he calls a friend.

If he’s taken this advice on board, then there might be one more reason to watch an exciting Real Sociedad team in La Liga and the Europa League next season. Perhaps he can offer hope to a new set of supporters that they have a boy who can do anything, who goes by the name of Adnan Januzaj.


Source: La Liga News