We’ve been here before, haven’t we? A youngster scoring a crucial goal on his first start Manchester United, thus making it impossible to avoid the hype and hysteria and the words “star” and “born”. However, while hoping that Adnan Januzaj won’t become another Federico Macheda or, worse even, Paul Pogba Part 2, when one cuts through the fanfare that will surround the Belgian after today’s performance, it’s easy to realise that United have a wonderful, wonderful talent on their hands.
Januzaj’s performance was almost as brilliant as Wayne Rooney’s first start for the club, arguably even more impressive given that had it not been for the 18-year-old, United would have probably lost the game and sparked worldwide paranoia in the 650m-strong fan base Ed Woodward cares about so much.
The greatest thing about Januzaj’s brace is that neither goal could possibly be classified as a fluke. Not the first – an exquisite side-footed finish that left Westwood rooted to the spot after Januzaj had started the move and got on the end of Patrice Evra’s cross – and definitely not the second – a sublime volley across goal courtesy of a wayward header from John O’Shea.
David Moyes has been strongly criticised for just about everything he’s done since he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson, but the United manager deserves all the credit he gets for trusting Januzaj’s skills despite being under pressure and, for 45 minutes at least, seemingly heading for a third Premier League defeat in a row.
Moyes’ decision to include Januzaj wasn’t the only pleasing aspect of his team selection which, for the second game in a row, bore no traces of either Anderson or Ashley Young, with Nani and Januzaj out wide, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in midfield with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie up-front.
The feel-good factor, however, didn’t last long as United were behind with barely five minutes played as Nemanja Vidic produced his second assist in four days by getting his feet tangled up in remarkably catastrophic fashion, thus allowing Craig Gardner the opportunity to put Sunderland ahead.
With United’s back four continuing to look as solid as a chocolate mousse and Patrice Evra doing his best to ensure Emmanuele Giaccherini could have easily been mistaken for Garrincha, United had David De Gea to thank for not going two down. Spanish Dave produced the save of the season by diverting Giaccherini’s header away from the goal, when a goal had looked a certainty.
United, whose lack of ideas and creativity becomes increasingly common but not less frustrating with each game, had very little to write home about in the first half, with Nani twice going close to equalise. While his first shot fizzled past the post, his second, a side-footed finish in acres of space, should have really hit the target but, Nani being Nani, he fired it wide thus fuelling the constant “class player – useless dross” debate.
Giaccherini skied a good chance on the stroke of halftime after Adam Johnson had raced through a couple of thousands of half-hearted tackles by the ever obliging Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic, while United started the second in such subdued fashion that the chances of them scoring looked as little as those of Anderson refusing an invite to an “all you can eat” buffet.
United’s intention to make Sunderland look like a good side and Lee Cattermole like Roy Keane in his pomp rather than the pub-standard player he is had just started to get even more worrying when a young Belgian decided that he had other ideas. Januzaj’s equaliser turned the game on its head 10 minutes into the second half, while his second goal seven minutes later took Sunderland out of the game altogether as United secured a much-needed win.
And now, please, sign him up, David.
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