Two goals and a Man of the Match award – not bad for an 18-year-old who made his first start in the Premier League.
When the Manchester United team was announced, Januzaj’s name filled fans with excitement. Januzaj had impressed for United in pre-season but had only been given cameo appearances in the league since, so Sunderland was his first real chance to show what he could really do.
United’s start to the season got even tougher after just five minutes against Sunderland when Craig Gardner pounced on a mistake by Vidic to score.
Despite the early knock back, Januzaj started the game brightly. He often took the ball on the left side and had the confidence to take men but United couldn’t make anything of it. To his credit, he kept going during the first half but for all his attacking endeavour, there were few clear cut chances created.
That all changed in the second half when he took proceedings into his own hands.
United improved dramatically after the break and Januzaj continued to shine. He was rewarded in the 55th minute for his hard work when he met a low cross from Evra and fired a right footed effort in the back of the net, his supposed weaker foot.
The goal was a beauty but what I enjoyed more was watching his reaction after scoring it. Most youngsters scoring on their full Premier League debut would celebrate like mad (and they would have every right to) but not Januzaj – he darted to retrieve the ball so the match could be restarted as soon as possible. He wanted more. It seems that Januzaj has naturally got the United attitude instilled in him.
His debut brace means that he becomes only the second United player to ever score a brace on their full debut. The first person? Ruud van Nistelrooy. Esteemed company indeed.
After the goal, United were well on top and Januzaj hadn’t finished yet. Within six minutes of the equaliser, he had scored his and United’s second of the day – this time, an absolutely superb left foot volley that gave the keeper no chance. Nani’s cross from the right was headed clear by O’Shea and the youngster showed just what great technique he had to net what turned out to be the winning goal.
By the time he was taken off in the 76th minute, he had already done the damage and went off to a standing ovation from the travelling United fans.
For someone so young and inexperienced, Januzaj looked like he belonged on the pitch. His balance is really a sight to behold and football comes so easy to him.
After winning the Reserve Player of the Season award last year, it was no surprise that he was included in the first team’s pre-season tour squad but even after impressing, it looked likely that Januzaj would go out on loan this season in order to gain experience. Instead, David Moyes decided to keep the youngster at the club though and his decision has already been vindicated.
His debut brace means that he becomes only the second United player to ever score a brace on their full debut. The first player to do that was Ruud van Nistelrooy. Esteemed company indeed.
It may be too early to start putting any pressure on his shoulders but Januzaj is exactly the sort of player who has held the #7 shirt over the years at United. Exciting and mesmerising with the ball at his feet, you expected him to do something every time he had the ball and he delivered. Players of that ilk are a rare breed.
Januzaj’s contract negotiations are ongoing and if there was only limited interest in the 18-year-old before, any top teams not following him will be now.