Adnan Januzaj: Player Profile

United’s New Kid On The Block

Personal information

Full name: Adnan Januzaj
Date of birth: 5 February 1995 (age 18)
Place of birth: Brussels, Belgium
Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Playing position: Winger

Club information
Current club: Manchester United
Number: 44

Youth career
2001–2005 FC Brussels
2005–2011 Anderlecht
2011–2013 Manchester United

Senior career
2013– Manchester United 3 Appearances, 2 Goals

If you didn't know the name Adnan Januzaj already, you certainly do now. The 18-year-old winger exploded into the Premier League two weeks ago as his two expertly-taken goals spared Manchester United's blushes at Sunderland.

Trailing to an early Craig Gardner strike at the Stadium of Light, United were heading for a third consecutive league defeat for the first time since December 2001. That was until the teenager, who had been handed his first league start by manager David Moyes, scored twice in a six-minute spell just after the break.

It was just the latest vindication of Moyes's faith in the Belgian, who has impressed United fans with his cameos so far this season. Moyes was impressed with Januzaj's performances during the pre-season tour of Asia and Australia, giving him outings in the Community Shield and the Premier League

His upright running style, close control of the ball and excellent passing range have won Januzaj many admirers

Januzaj was born on February 5, 1995 in Brussels to Kosovar-Albanian parents. Some have cheekily pointed out that he was born a decade to the day after Cristiano Ronaldo. His parentage means Januzaj is eligible to play for Albania and Kosovo, while his place of birth means he obviously qualifies for Belgium too. He can also play for Serbia and Turkey through his grandparents.

Under FIFA regulations, he will also be eligible to represent England when he has lived in the country for five years beyond his 18th birthday. That won't come around until February 2018, however, so it's highly likely he will have played for another country before this.

Though Belgium would be the best choice as they have a very talented squad at present, Januzaj is reportedly keen to play for Albania.

Albania coach Gianni De Biasi has tried to woo Januzaj, calling him a great talent, and stated that the Albanian Federation are waiting for the right moment to ask him. The Kosovan Federation have accepted that it's unlikely he will want to play for a national side that does not compete in the World Cup or European Championships.

In June, Marc van Geersom, former coach of Belgium's Under 18 and Under 19 teams, said that Januzaj had turned down the chance to play for them. However, this won't deter senior coach Marc Wilmots from talking to him about his international career. The five-year delay did not stop England boss Roy Hodgson expressing a hope that he might one day play for this country.

Raised in Brussels, Januzaj joined its leading club, Anderlecht, as a 10-year-old and was there for six years before being talent-spotted by United while performing tricks at a skills school in the Belgian capital. Arriving at Old Trafford as a 16-year-old, Januzaj played for United's youth team and then graduated into the Under 21 side. He earned widespread praise for his performances as United's reserve side won the Under 21 Premier League last season, beating Tottenham in the final at Old Trafford. He collected the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year Award.

Towards the end of last season, Sir Alex Ferguson gave him the squad number 44 but his first team exposure was limited to a place on the bench for the great manager's last match at West Bromwich Albion. He really came to prominence during this summer's pre-season tour of Asia and Australia, where new manager Moyes wasn't afraid to throw him in to the first team.

He scored his first ever senior goal with a header against Kitchee in Hong Kong, collecting the man of the match award too. Other impressive performances on the tour persuaded Moyes to give him a competitive debut in the FA Community Shield against Wigan at Wembley, replacing Robin van Persie for the final six minutes with United leading 2-0.

A Premier League bow followed in the 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace on September 14, when he was a 68th-minute sub for Ashley Young. And, as we know, he marked his first senior start for the club with two goals at Sunderland this weekend, also earning the man of the match accolade. Januzaj offers Moyes an option either centrally at the head of the midfield or on either flank. He started the match against Sunderland on the left but as he is left-footed he can also function on the right.

This left foot can be deployed to devastating effect when within striking range and his upright running style means he can attack in a direct manner. He can also deliver a good cross and take excellent set-pieces. What is most noticeable is his confidence while wearing a shirt that has proved a burden for many in the past.

Sir Alex Ferguson felt strongly enough to hand Januzaj a first team squad number and that judgement is looking a shrewd one. He said at the time: “Younger players are the foundation for the next five or six years, like Adnan Januzaj, the Belgian boy, who's really looking very good. Adnan is a beautifully balanced players. 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.”

After Januzaj saved his skin on Saturday, Moyes said: “I gave Wayne Rooney his debut at 16. I gave Ross Barkely his debut at 16. Adnan is that bit older but he is up there with those boys. The boy's performance today showed what he is capable of, not just his goals but his passing and movement, too.

He's a top player, he's going to be a special talent. I would have played him a few weeks ago but he had a minor injury. He's going to be a great talent but we won't let him get away from himself. He was in the reserves last Monday and we'll keep his feet on the ground.” Indeed he was - Januzaj has played for United's reserves three times this season, scoring in the 4-0 win away to West Bromwich.

He was also included in the United squad for the inaugural UEFA Youth League but has yet to feature for Nicky Butt's team. And what does Januzaj have to say about himself? “Ever since I was five, I’ve loved to play football and always had the ball at my feet. I am just trying to make a career in it because I really love football and I hope to keep going and do something for the future.”

If Adnan Januzaj's career turns out anything like the last United player to score two on his Premier League debut, David Moyes has an absolute gem. Back in August 2001, a £19million Dutchman called Ruud van Nistelrooy announced himself to Old Trafford with a brace against Fulham.

Januzaj, 18, was born in Belgium to parents of Kosovan-Albanian origin and is therefore eligible to play for both Belgium and Albania. By dint of his Turkish grandparents and the Kosovo city’s disputed status within Serbian territory, the midfielder is also eligible to play for Turkey and Serbia.

As for England, manager Roy Hodgson would only be able to call on Januzaj once he has lived here for a total of five years over the age of 18. Such complicated international wrangles are hardly likely to concern Moyes, who has compared Januzaj to Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley – both players handed senior debuts by the Scot.

Januzaj meanwhile, has already turned down call ups to the Belgium U18 and U19 sides and right now, speculation surrounding his international future is probably of secondary importance compared to the small matter of his expiring contract at United.

Following the departure of former Manchester youth players such as Gerard Pique and Paul Pogba, who have both gone on to greater things at Barcelona and Juventus respectively, the feeling is United are unlikely to let another bright spark leave on the cheap.

Pogba, now 20, left for Juve on a free transfer in 2012 after refusing a new deal at Old Trafford. The France international is now demonstrating talent that makes agent Mino Railoa's claims of his being worth “twice as much as Gareth Bale” appear only slightly too wide of the mark.

For this reason United are said to be offering Januzaj a new contract, complete with a 2,900% pay rise that will bring his weekly salary to £30,000.

The two goals Januzaj scored in United's 2-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday suggests they might yet be forced to improve their terms.