With Manchester United’s senior side cruising at the top of the Barclays Premier League table, the younger sides have almost gone unnoticed with all of the media hype around the first team. But, the U21s and U18s are having just as good of a season as United’s senior side.
Believe it or not, the U21s side have been the stand-out team at the club so far this season. Despite losing influential striker Will Keane to a nasty knee injury back in May, the U21s currently lie in second of their Elite group just five points behind the leaders Tottenham Hotspur with one game in hand.
But the major success story to come out of Carrington over the past nine months is the improvement of some of the clubs younger stars – notably the young Belgian sensation Adnan Januzaj.
Signed in early July of 2011, the former Anderlecht youth protégé has shown signs that he could be a first team regular in the coming years. And it isn’t surprising to know that Sir Alex Ferguson is a big fan of Januzaj too.
Speaking to Manutd.com about Januzaj’s progress, Ferguson said: “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.”
Ferguson’s opinion is certainly echoed around the coaching staff who have so far helped Januzaj to achieve big things with the U18s and U21s.
Warren Joyce has boosted the young Belgian’s quest for a first team role next season by including him in every game the U21s have played in 2013 and Januzaj has repaid Joyce’s faith in him with two goals in 12 games.
But it’s not necessarily his goals to game ratio which makes him the player he is. It is his versatility and creativity which ranks him as one of the hottest prospects to come through the clubs U18s set-up in recent years.
I caught up with United die hard and U21 regular Peter Bolton and he believes that Januzaj has a bright future.
“Our main problem this season has been scoring goals. Adnan has really played his part in this season’s success. He looks goods on the ball and never gives up.
“As for the future, I’ve seen so many youngsters be good at 17, 18, 19 and not go on to make it but others develop slightly later.
“The best example being Robbie Savage keeping David Beckham out of United’s youth team and look where both careers went!
“So Adnan will make it as a professional footballer – but its up to him to decide how hard he wants to push himself.”
I personally have watched him closely a few times and on every occasion, he has done something which has made me think ‘wow’, such as against the league’s runaway team Tottenham Hotspur where he was outstanding.
United let the likes of Joshua King, Federico Macheda and Davide Petrucci leave the club in January so Adnan has on occasions been used as the main striker. But coming up against Younes Kaboul was never going to be easy.
Kaboul had a clear height advantage and a clear weight advantage. It almost looked like a case of David vs. Goliath – and this is what it turned out to be. The Belgian starlet outsmarted Kaboul and his centre back partner Grant Hall, dragging them out wide to make space for the midfield to drive through into the gaps created.
The composure that he had was on another level. You would expect someone of Januzaj’s physique to feel intimidated by the two 6ft3 centre backs but he looked as cool as ever.
It’s this type of player which United thrive off. A young man who plays with no fear and a young man who will potentially have the world at his feet. And the scariest thing about it, he is only 18.