This is part 1 of this three part series.
The argument for Manchester United phenom Adnan Januzaj
Adnan Januzaj is first on the list as he a: has the most experience of the three teenage talents and b: has not been fazed nor encumbered by the weight of seemingly carrying a United midfield.
While David Moyes has been credited with the nurturing of Januzaj and his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson has been criticised for handing over an ageing team to Moyes, it was actually the latter who began the starlet's development.
Noting the youth player during the 2012-13 season, Ferguson told Inside United magazine that: 'Adnan is a beautifully balanced player. He’s only 18 and still to grow into his frame. But he has good balance, good acceleration and he’s a very good technical player.'
A creative attacking outlet, Januzaj has been one of the few bright rays of light in an otherwise overcast United season. Capable of playing a number of positions across the forward line, behind the striker, Januzaj has demonstrated an ability to pick passes through congested regions, has shown a dribbling nous, is technically superb and attracts fouls.
United's coaches huddled together during pre-season, after promoting Januzaj into senior-level training, to discuss how seamlessly the teenager had adapted to the transition of practicing alongside Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and the man who recommended him to the club in the first place - Patrice Evra.
Phil Neville was quoted by ESPN to have said late last year: 'Within five minutes of doing a little 7-v-3 possession, you could see the vision of him playing for Man United’s first team. At the end of the session, we [the coaches] were unanimous… he played like a United player. He’d wanted the ball, he was brave, he went into a tackle and smashed someone.
'Some kids are in awe when they are promoted to the first team, they pussyfoot about. Adnan was like 'Come on, I want more of this, I should have been in here yesterday, not today.' Straight away, the manager came up to me and said ‘He will be a Man United first-team player.'"
Januzaj made his name on his first official start for United, where his two goals were vital in a come-from-behind victory against Sunderland in September. One month later, he was handed a five and a half year contract in order to stave off outside interest and has since gone from strength to strength producing a cross 2.8 times per game on average, shooting 2.1 times, producing an assist for a shot every 90 minutes and attempting 3.5 dribbles every match.
|Name||Cross||Shots||Assist a shot||Dribbles||Fouled||Apps||Mins|
Is there criticism? Or room for improvement when it comes to Januzaj? Of course. Few players are exempt from individual improvements.
For Adnan, it is his slight frame - understandable for a player who has only legally been allowed to drink the man of the match champagne for 11 months.
Last year, reserve coach Warren Joyce was quoted by the Daily Mail to have said: 'Adnan is still developing but there’s no doubt he’s got talent too. He’s got a good footballing brain and a good touch. We’re trying to get him stronger and fitter and he’s getting to know the Manchester United style of play as well.'
The key word in Joyce's appraisal was stronger and, while he will build strength and physicality as he naturally continues to depart from his teenager's frame, there is one person he can model his transition into manhood to - Cristiano Ronaldo, the man whom he shares a birthday with (February 5) and the player whose shirt he may one day wear himself; number 7.
When Ronaldo first arrived at Stretford, he was a trick-filled skinny winger who was deemed to go to ground far too easily.
Like Cristiano, simulating a foul is something he has been accused of, as has his weight… but when Ronaldo left Old Trafford, sold to Real Madrid for a then world record fee of £80m, he had developed into the ultimate Premier League player: stamina, work-rate, turn of pace, speed, acceleration, an abundance of power, strength, a muscular physique, ambidexterity in his feet, aerial ability… the Portuguese superstar had it all.
Januzaj is currently only two inches shorter than the 6ft 1in Ronaldo, but if he gains as much muscle mass whilst retaining his technical assets then he has a formidable future ahead.
Current rating: 7/10
Potential rating: 9/10