While the debate surrounding Wayne Rooney’s inclusion for England rages on, Manchester United’s World Cup spotlight could soon be turned away from England’s number 10.
For a few months now, there has been another name on the lips of United fans wondering who the next star of Old Trafford will be.
19-year-old Adnan Januzaj made his debut for Belgium last month in a friendly with Luxembourg in Genk. The game has since been ‘wiped’ from the record books, as Belgium coach Marc Wilmots made seven substitutions during the game, rather than the permitted six – but that shouldn’t detract from the impact Januzaj made in his 45 minutes on the field.
I use the word ‘impact’ delicately; it would have been a touch unreasonable to expect the United winger to have the same impact on his international debut as he did on his full club debut – scoring twice in a 2-1 victory over Sunderland in October.
No, this time his influence on the game was rather more understated. Without providing a real goal threat, he was behind many of Belgium’s attacks in the second half, showing some of the intricate tricks, flicks and flare which so many United players sadly lacked last season.
There has been hype around Januzaj for a while, following his fantastic debut season for United, which makes it all the more impressive that he hasn’t yet ‘stagnated’, like so many of United’s youth team players have in recent years.
He could have quite easily tailed off and disappeared from the radar, especially considering how poor United’s season was. In a year so undeniably awful for his club, any influence of a young player can be (and was) overstated; it’s not unusual for players to wilt in the spotlight suddenly thrust upon them, along with the weight of new-found expectation.
There was something about Januzaj’s strut onto the field in the (albeit now non-existent) friendly win against Luxembourg last month that demonstrated this guy means business.
We already know a lot about his capabilities, but we know little of the player himself, with more senior United players regularly fulfilling media duties. His post-match interview spoke volumes of his belief in himself. Not just necessarily his answers, which weren’t much to write home about, but his body language. His enthusiasm and confidence perhaps explain the ease with which he plays the game he loves.
As well as unbelievable talent on the pitch, he seems to have the mental strength, confidence and outright audacity to become one of the greats in the future.
There’s no reason why that can’t start in Brazil in just a few short days’ time.
It would not be at all surprising that, come the end of the tournament, there is a new name on the minds of many picking players who have sparkled in the world’s biggest football competition.