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).
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.
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!