Adnan Januzaj captained Manchester United’s Under-21 side against West Ham on Tuesday night and showed glimpses of his extraordinary talent, but was left kicking himself after missing a relatively simple opportunity to score.
The Belgium international, who has endured a difficult season under Louis van Gaal, showed great determination and pace to put himself through on goal onto his favoured left foot - but somehow missed the target with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Januzaj instantly pulled his shirt over his head - and one presumes Van Gaal would have done the same had he been watching on. (To view the video, scroll down and fast forward to 7:40).
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Januzaj has struggled this season
The 20-year-old has not played a single minute in any of United’s three previous matches - arguably the Red Devils’ three best performances of the season - and has not completed 90 minutes since the 3-1 win over Burnley on February 11.
With no goals and just one assist to his name, it’s been a dreadfully disappointing campaign for the technically-gifted winger who was denied the chance to move away from Old Trafford on loan during the January transfer window by Van Gaal.
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Juan Mata's form
Januzaj was an unused substitute in the wins over Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa - and now faces the difficult task of winning his place back from the in-form Juan Mata, whose performances have been superb in recent weeks.
The youngster knows he will only impress the hard-to-please Van Gaal by taking every opportunity available to him, whether it be in training or with the team’s Under-21 side.
And he will be acutely aware that missing these type of gilt-edged opportunities against inferior opponents will not impress the veteran Dutch coach.
United should consider loaning Januzaj out
There’s every chance that Januzaj will see very little first-team football between now and the end of the season - and this will inevitably increase speculation regarding his future heading into the summer.
Manchester United may consider the idea of loaning out Januzaj for the 2015-16 campaign if Van Gaal gives the green light. It’s crucial for both the player and the club that he’s playing - anywhere - week-in, week-out instead of sitting on the bench.
Januzaj would have no shortage of potential suitors, but Van Gaal might be reluctant to allow the Belgium international to leave Old Trafford - even on a temporary basis - because of his ability to make an impact in big matches.
Manchester United fans: should Adnan Januzaj be loaned out next season? Have your say in the comments below!