This time last season, Manchester United player Adnan Januzaj was tearing up proverbial trees and looking like being the club’s best player of the season; despite the teenager only making his debut a few months earlier.
Two match-saving goals against Sunderland announced Januzaj in barnstorming fashion and by the end of that campaign he had racked up 35 appearances for United, scoring four goals and providing six assists in the process.
In short a star was born, with David Moyes finding a saviour in the unlikeliest of places.
For all the Scot did or did not do during his time at Old Trafford, he gave Januzaj his chance – perhaps more out of necessity than anything else – but the Belgium international still has a lot to thank him for.
And yet this season Januzaj has looked like a shadow of his former self, which is a strange thing to say regarding a 19-year-old, but a true one regardless.
Louis van Gaal has begun to give him chances following speculation he may leave despite only recently agreeing a long-term deal, but Januzaj has flattered to deceive. So what is the problem with United’s wonder-kid who currently looks anything but wondrous?
There may well be two reasons, the first being the additional expectation on his young shoulders and the second being his participation in last summer’s World Cup.
Januzaj may have barely featured for Marc Wilmots’ side in Brazil, but the very fact that he was there means he did not get the rest his young body would have needed following a demanding season. His mind will also have been alive with international matters rather than relaxing in preparation for his second domestic campaign.
Then there is the fact that last season Januzaj was an unknown quantity. United had plenty of stars but here was a young lad who their opponents had perhaps heard of but not seen in the flesh. So when he played the mystery surrounding him allowed him to perform with considerably less attention – at least to begin with.
Now everyone knows what he can do, and there is an expectation on his shoulders that will never leave. It is the burden of innately talented players and one Januzaj will have to learn to live with.
For now it could all be too much for him, but given time, an overdue rest next summer and with a difficult second season under his belt, he could well come back better than ever.