Manchester United have seen their fair share of talented prospects come and go.
Old Trafford often attracts the best young talent the world has to offer, and Adnan Januzaj was no different. The Belgian winger joined the club from Anderlecht as a youngster, and made his Premier League debut under David Moyes in 2013.
It was a difficult time for United, but things seemed brighter when Januzaj produced a brace against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. No sooner had the final whistle blown on Wearside, the talk was whether this talented winger might be able to flourish at international level.
He ended the season with four goals, and by the start of the 2014/2015 campaign he seemed ready to take up a permanent role with the first team. The Belgian international was handed the number 11 shirt, previously worn by Ryan Giggs, but sadly he struggled to emulate the Welshman’s wizardry on the wing.
His second season saw fewer appearances and no goals, and by the time his third year at Old Trafford began things had not gotten any easier. The club loaned Januzaj to Borussia Dortmund on the final day of the 2015 summer transfer window, but the time away from Manchester did little to aid his career. United recalled him in January after just a handful of starts, and began planning his next move.
There was a sense of poetry about his next step, as he joined Sunderland on loan. A lot had changed since his memorable afternoon on Wearside, but it was felt now Januzaj could show his quality. The move reunited Januzaj with Moyes, although there was little compassion shown by the 56-year-old.
“I’ve said to Adnan, you need to stop blaming everyone else for what’s gone wrong,” said Moyes. “This loan’s a little bit of a risk. I’ve told Adnan to look at himself and realise that it’s down to him to change it; it can’t always be the manager’s fault or the coach’s fault that he hasn’t progressed. Adnan’s got to ask has he prepared right, has he got himself in the best condition, has he trained well enough? And, when he’s got his opportunity, has he played well enough? In a lot of cases the answer has to be ‘no’.”
Sunderland finished bottom of the league that season and were relegated to the Championship. As for Januzaj, it was clear his future rested neither at Sunderland or Manchester United. He joined Real Sociedad in the summer of 2017, and there have admittedly been ups and downs since then. Running parallel to struggles at club level was a diminished role with the Belgian national team.
“He needs to be playing more,” Roberto Martinez said.“Talent on its own is not enough. You have to have the mentality of helping the team.”
There was even talk of a move to Roma in January, but since then Januzaj has started to find his form. He scored back to back goals against Valencia and Real Valladolid, and when playing on the right-wing for Sociedad this season he has 6 goals and 3 assists in 18 games.
Time is still on Januzaj’s side, and even though he did not make it at United, he could still show there is success after life at Old Trafford.