Adnan Januzaj‘s performance against Sunderland was one of the only saving graces on a night where it was difficult to be happy with anything that you saw.
The 18-year-old was head and shoulders above any other player in a United shirt – always hungry for the ball, willing to run at opponents and able to create spaces to threat passes through, he was so direct whereas others were predictable and one dimensional.
Against Sunderland, United relied on an 18-year-old who has made 20 senior appearances for the club as the heartbeat of our attacks. Of course, United were without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie as we have been for the majority of the season which effected our chance creation but there was plenty of talent in the team that played Sunderland – certainly enough talent to carve out a lot of chances for United.
But at every opportunity, we shifted the ball to Januzaj and hoped he could conjure something up. That shouldn’t happen at United. There is nothing wrong with playing to your strengths but there needs to be alternative options too, especially given that he is just 18 – United only seemed to have Januzaj as a genuine outlet as Rafael/Valencia couldn’t create anything nor could we find space through the middle.
Januzaj was one of the only players who played with the right mindset as well. Too many players were passengers in a game that was critical for United to win in order to stop a run of consecutive losses. He put himself on the line for 90 minutes to try and get the result but others, they didn’t seem bothered enough to put in the effort.
Rewind to the start of October when United overcame Sunderland 2-1 thanks to a Januzaj brace. Those two goals thrust Januzaj into the spotlight for the right reason and he has never left since. Prior to that, he was just another academy graduate with potential. Three months later, Januzaj goes back to Sunderland as a first team regular and one of United’s most important players.
If you took Januzaj out of United’s overall performance against Sunderland, we would have looked like a glorified Sunday league team with no clue what to do when we had the ball at our feet in their half. We cannot be reliant on an 18-year-old to spearhead us, it has to be done as a collective. Not only is it bad for United to be reliant but for Januzaj to have that much pressure so early on in his career could work adversely.
Everybody needs to stand and be accounted for and show the sort of guile and positivity that Januzaj did in both his attitude and performance. If we don’t, our season will go from bad to worse.