Chance is a fine thing in football.
Adnan Januzaj was given a surprise chance to impress Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal during the win over Aston Villa at the weekend. Chances are he won’t be given many more this season.
It’s a positive reflection on the United squad that Van Gaal has created that a player of Januzaj’s potential and obvious ability is staring down the barrel of life on the periphery of the action for the time being. Positive for the squad, not so for the Belgian international’s prospects.
When Van Gaal was first announced as United’s new manager last summer Januzaj would have been one of the players celebrating the announcement.
Van Gaal's rep
The Dutchman has an esteemed reputation for developing young talent, and as far as raw skills go there’s few more precious than United’s wonderkid.
However, circumstances tend to have more impact on a manager’s plans than he might care to admit. If that’s the case then Januzaj could well become a victim of circumstance - the circumstance being that Van Gaal is under pressure to ensure United offer a sustained Premier League title challenge this year.
Unfortunately that means the tried and tested players are the ones who will top his list when it comes to squad selection.
A temporary exit
Though Januzaj was given a rare opportunity at Villa Park, one that he duly grabbed with both hands, his fortunes for the coming campaign at Old Trafford don’t look rosy enough to tie him to the club until next year.
With that in mind, and the idea that he might flourish with more fashion elsewhere, the youngster should seriously consider taking a top flight English club up on their offer of a loan spell.
Van Gaal has already affirmed beyond all doubt that he doesn’t want to sell the 20-year-old. Januzaj himself would be frankly mad to push for a permanent departure.
But that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be ready to spend time somewhere like the Stadium of Light or Goodison Park in a bid to get guaranteed football under his belt.
Minutes are needed
For a start there’s the obvious theory that he’d be handed a stage on which to flaunt his ability for 90 minutes a week, one that he probably isn’t going to be afforded at United.
It’s easy to forget the Januzaj’s only due to turn 21 in February. He’s got time to gamble, time to garner experience and certainly time to fill before Van Gaal considers him ready for a regular starting XI berth in his United squad.
The Dutchman rates the young winger, that much is clear, but does he rate him higher than the likes of Memphis Depay? Does he rate him higher than Juan Mata? Does he rate him higher than Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia? The answer, at the moment, looks to be no.
Destined for the bench?
As a result Januzaj looks set for a season of frustration if he remains with United. Not in the sense that he’ll be frozen out, not even in the sense that he’ll be forgotten about. Purely in the sense that he won’t be able to gobble up minutes on the pitch like he ought to be.
Whether that’s right and fair or not is a matter of personal opinion, but Van Gaal has a league to try and win and a lot of stars to juggle as he sets about doing so.
Masterful cultivator of young prospects he might be, but at the moment development of players like Januzaj has to be lower down his list of priorities than ensuring he fields the best side possible each week.
Work to be done
A direct implication is that Januzaj may benefit from becoming an average Premier League side’s go-to-guy.
The finished article he might have looked in David Moyes’ shaky United side of 2013/14, but the truth is he is a diamond that needs to be properly cut and polished. On this occasion allowing another side to do the groundwork isn’t a ridiculous idea.
United fans, do you think Januzaj would benefit from a loan move elsewhere this summer? Let us know in the comments box below.