2011 was a huge year for Manchester United as they won their 19th league title and overtook Liverpool as the most successful league club in domestic football, knocking them off their perch.
It may be a year remembered for that but it also saw the signing of a relatively unknown Belgian 16-year-old.
After impressing during a skills session in Brussels, young Adnan Januzaj made the move from Belgian giants Anderlecht to United.
He’d signed for Anderlecht when he was just ten years of age and rose through their academy at an astonishing pace.
With sublime skill and ferocious pace, Januzaj was highly thought of at Anderlecht but when the opportunity came to join one of the biggest clubs in the world, he couldn’t resist.
Since then, he has become an integral part of United’s youth setup after scoring his first goal for the club’s U18’s side against Crewe Alexandra.
Despite a serious injury towards the end of Adnan’s debut season, he excelled both on and off the pitch with the club’s coaches praising not just his ability with the ball, as well as his attitude and work ethic in training.
I first came across Adnan’s ability midway through last season. I’d heard many good things about him but I’d not yet witnessed it for myself. It was a Manchester Senior Cup tie against Stockport County at Edgeley Park.
He started off on the wing and immediately took the game to Stockport’s full back. But was surprised me so much about him the first time I saw him was how versatile he looked.
He’d cut inside and where wingers would move straight back out to the wing, he’d choose to stay in the centre of the pitch and try to play football whilst someone else moved out to the wing instead of him.
That was the first thing that made me believe that we were witnessing a player which could one day cut it at the top level of international football.
He second thing that I noticed was his awareness and vision. It is very rare that you see an attacking player with an eye for a cross field pass or a player with the ability to keep hold the ball and with short passes, all whilst making it look effortless.
It’s almost like someone had a Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes love child.
The 2012/2013 season was undoubtedly the young Belgian’s better year at the club as he helped lead the U21 squad to league glory and was handed his senior squad number by the now retired Sir Alex Ferguson as well as being named Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year.
David Moyes then showed the same faith in him which Sir Alex had once showed by taking Januzaj on United’s first team tour of Asia.
Januzaj continued to prove why he is so highly rated at the club with some superb performances against teams who were already midway through their season, scoring his first senior goal against Kitchee.
And then once back in England, he made his competitive senior debut in the 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield. Despite only featuring for ten minutes, he showed glimpses of pure class, something that United fans should get used to seeing from this young lad.
He carried that form into the start of the U21s season as he was the stand out man in United’s 4-2 loss to Liverpool. But something that I picked up on quickly was how Januzaj had changed physically.
The first time I saw him he seemed a little too light footed and small but against Liverpool, he looked like he had a sheer presence. He’d bulked up in muscle and more importantly seemed to have grown to above the six-foot mark.
You may be wondering why this matters but a good physique is essential in modern day football. Look at the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Antonio Valencia.
Ronaldo was very similar to Januzaj when he first joined United. He wasn’t massively tall and he wasn’t high in body muscle, but look at him now. A lot of that is down to United’s fitness coaches who are seen as one of the best set of coaches in club football.
The Brussels born Belgian now has the world at his feet and this season he will look to push for a first team place which may also pave the way for him to be included in Belgium’s 2014 World Cup squad, if they qualify.
A big ask you may say but with Januzaj on the brink of signing a new five-year deal, there is genuine belief in and around the club that this teenager from Belgium could, be the next best thing to come out of United.