Last season will be remembered as a dark one by every Manchester United fan after David Moyes took over the reins from the departing Sir Alex Ferguson.
There was a good feeling about the appointment after his impressive reign on Merseyside with Everton and in being handed a six year contract, it appeared that Moyes would be given time to put his mark on the team.
Unfortunately for the Scotsman, after an uninspiring summer in the transfer market where United were linked with a host of world class players, the results failed to come.
Compounded by his negative interview comments about the club – notably United ‘aspiring’ to be like Liverpool after a 3-0 home defeat, Moyes was sacked by the board with the club languishing in seventh place after only ten months in charge at Old Trafford.
However, the one bright spark in what was a very poor season for United was the emergence of Adnan Januzaj – the Belgian winger who signed as a 16-year-old from Belgian club Anderlecht.
United fans had known about the talented teenager for some time, but it wasn’t until Ferguson’s last game in charge – the 5-5 draw with West Bromwich Albion, that the fans got a glimpse of him when he was named among the substitutes for the first time.
Unfortunately, for the fans, the ding-dong nature of that game meant they were unable to see Januzaj make his debut for the first team.
Although he couldn’t hand the player his debut, Ferguson himself made a glowing assessment of the youngster when asked:
Adnan is a beautifully-balanced player. He’s only 18 and has to grow into his frame but he has good balance, good acceleration and is a very good technical player.
Once Moyes was put in charge of first team affairs, the pacey-winger who can play on either flank quickly became a valuable member of the squad. The young Belgian made his debut in the Community Shield when he replaced match-winner Robin van Persie in a 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic.
It wasn’t too long after that he made his Premier League bow against Aston Villa and on his first league start, he scored a brace in what was an awful game in Sunderland.
United failed to create anything going forward and it was only due the brilliance of the teenager that they could escape with three very valuable points.
Under the new management and unfortunate schedule, United were really struggling to pick up points, so his performance was of extra importance at that time.
Only two weeks after the Sunderland game, the youngster penned a new five year contract that tied him to Manchester with several big clubs, most notably Paris Saint-Germain showing serious interest in the player who was quickly being talked about as one of European football’s most talented youngsters.
Quickly drawing comparisons to United legends Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo, Januzaj’s directness, guile and pace meant that he quickly became a fan favourite and there was genuine excitement inside Old Trafford whenever he got on the ball.
At the same time, the youngster also began to gain a not entirely unfair reputation of being a diver after picking up three yellow cards (against Sunderland, West Ham and Tottenham) for the offence in his maiden season.
David Moyes freely admitted to the media that he had ‘had a word’ with Januzaj about the situation as it was a part of his game that he needed to cut out whilst encouraging more protection for his protégé from the referees – much akin to Ferguson’s request on behalf of Ronaldo a few years prior.
Although the player made a total of 35 appearances and scoring four goals in his debut season, it was clear that his raw talent needed honing over the next few years both technically and physically.
His slight frame meant that opposition players could easily overpower and nudge him off the ball and his decision making skills and final ball have often been criticised – Januzaj has been known to continue to try and beat another player when it had looked easier to square the ball to a team mate in a better position to keep the attack flowing.
After the sacking of Moyes before the end of last season and Louis van Gaal being appointed in the summer as the man chosen to bring the club to its glory days, it was expected that the winger would play a big role in the club’s resurgence.
Initially, van Gaal showed a tremendous amount of faith in the then 19 year old, handing him the number 11 shirt that had been vacant since Ryan Giggs retired at the end of the season.
Initially finding himself in an unfamiliar role in van Gaal’s experimentation with the 3-5-2 system that was perceived unsuccessful, the performances of the player this season have not been up to the same standards he set in his first.
Januzaj has been dispossessed too frequently during his many dribbling attempts, has created less opportunities for himself and team mates, but just as importantly, his reputation for diving has not gone away – in his last game for the club, he was again booked for simulation during United’s defeat to Arsenal, when Danny Welbeck came back to Old Trafford to haunt van Gaal, scoring in a 2-1 win.
United fans will be hoping that this regression is just a temporary blip in the talented youngster’s fledgling career – it promises to be an interesting off-season in Manchester.
With Memphis Depay rumoured to be joining from PSV Eindhoven, Ashley Young’s current form, Nani’s resurgence in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon and Ángel Di María still finding his feet in the Premier League, it remains to be seen if Adnan Januzaj can find the space needed to fit into van Gaal’s new Manchester United.
Should United let him leave on loan or permanently? Should he get more chances to shine? What are your thoughts on his development in Manchester or elsewhere?