The FA Cup fixture against Yeovil a week ago was expected to be a chance for young players to showcase their abilities. And to be fair, it was for some of them. James Wilson, Tyler Blackett, and Paddy McNair all made the starting lineup. However, there was one player everyone expected to start. The player everyone expected to continue his brilliant breakout season. The player that was hand-picked to take on Ryan Giggs’ number 11. That player is Adnan Januzaj.
It’s perhaps slightly bizarre to think about how Januzaj’s career has stalled this season. New manager Louis van Gaal has always been an advocate of promoting youth, and has done so this season, giving the likes of McNair and Blackett, as well as Jesse Lingard and Tom Thorpe their league debuts. The game at Huish Park was described by one United supporter on Twitter as Januzaj’s “Rafael and Park in midfield” moment, referencing the moment Paul Pogba decided to quit United.
It does have something to do with van Gaal’s choice of tactics this season. In most of the games this season, Januzaj has had to face competition from Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney for one spot in the starting lineup, competition that he regularly loses. But when United tried a 4-3-3 system, he was a mainstay on the wing. There is, however, the issue of the player’s confidence. Even in the season in which he broke into the team, he showed a lack of confidence. And this season, that has been multiplied hugely. Earlier in the season, he regularly showed questionable decision-making, something he’s never shown before, and that cost him a place in the team. This means that when he did go back in the team, he was bereft of all confidence, and it showed. In almost all the game he played he looked almost frightened on the ball, constantly fearing that he would do something wrong. When played on the right wing, he daren’t cut inside much, meaning he was isolated on the wing with his weaker foot, not being able to create.
So clearly, something has to be done. Recently, there has been a lot of reported interest from clubs wanting to sign him on loan. Van Gaal has stated that he is not keen on letting the player go, saying he is a “player of Manchester United,” but unless United will be switching back to the 4-3-3 formation, it doesn’t look like he will play much, and should be loaned in to one of the interested clubs. Those clubs are Aston Villa, Everton, Real Sociedad, Juventus, and Paris Saint-Germain.
Some of those clubs can be ruled out off the bat. Aston Villa currently has another United player on loan in Tom Cleverley, and would not be able to loan in another, while Real Sociedad, linked because of manager David Moyes, are reportedly close to getting Arsenal winger Joel Campbell.
The only club that has confirmed their interest in Januzaj is Juventus. Their manager Massimiliano Allegri has name-dropped Januzaj in a recent press conference, but has admitted that a deal would be difficult. Juventus has been looking for an attacking midfielder this transfer window, but has had their three targets turn down a move, with Wesley Sneijder opting to stay at Galatasaray, Alessandro Diamanti choosing to move to Fiorentina, and Xherdan Shaqiri going to rivals Inter, turning down Liverpool in the process. Juventus currently looks like the favourites, if they weren’t moving for Dortmund midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan. If that move falls through, expect them to come for Januzaj.
PSG are currently looking like the more unrealistic option, but there is reason behind it. Despite having an in-form young attacking midfielder in Lucas Moura, PSG might be looking for more wide men this month. Having lost Jeremy Menez in the summer, PSG can lose up to two more attackers this window, in Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani. Both returned from holiday in South America late, and are currently seeking move away from the club. Lavezzi is being linked with a return to Serie A, and Cavani, who has played on the wing multiple times to accommodate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is being linked with Arsenal.
The more sensible option would be to loan Januzaj to Premier League side Everton. They have been linked to the player least, but it does seem like the right move. Everton are currently facing the prospect of losing Samuel Eto’o, often played in attacking midfield, to Italian side Sampdoria. And, with attacking midfielder Ross Barkley gathering interest, they might see Januzaj as someone to fill the creative gap.
It is no doubt that Januzaj is a talented player. But his treatment in the next few months could decide his future for the club. Whatever the club decides to do, it could either make him the next big thing, another one who got away, or a player that could have been.