Adnan Januzaj is somehow still underrated for Manchester United

Clive Rose

Adnan Januzaj has Manchester United fans excited, but even the hype does not live up to realising just how high the youngster's potential is.

It wasn't as much of a headline-grabbing performance as his match-winning display against Sunderland, but nonetheless, Adnan Januzaj's game against Fulham will continue to raise the levels of excitement at Manchester United. In a relatively quiet game by his recent standards, Januzaj nonetheless set up one goal and was involved in countless other attacking moves. It seems to confirm that this is no purple patch or fluke - this is simply what he does.

Lining up on the left wing, it should have been more difficult. Much has been made of Shinji Kagawa's struggles out on the left, with David Moyes blamed for sidelining him. Yet the whole reason for moving players like David Silva and Juan Mata out to the wing was to give them more space, not less - since midfielders became deeper and more static, the likelihood of being in space simply sitting behind the striker was diminished. Kagawa has far more chance of doing well on the left than in behind, but there have been more to his woes.

Instead, with a slow centre-back pairing and a weak, lethargic midfield, United simply cannot force play far enough up the pitch for their wingers to receive the ball in advanced positions. This, more than Rooney's role, is what makes United's side look much more like a 4-4-2, but it is a problem with Januzaj has coped with far better. Unlike Kagawa, he has the bursts of pace, tenacity, and range of invention to make it work. Against Fulham he performed the role to perfection, constantly picking up the ball from deep positions and driving forwards with the aid of Patrice Evra.

That an eighteen-year-old can find a way to flourish in a role which has confounded one of the Bundesliga's best players is astonishing, as is the end product that goes along with his exciting play. Like the young Cristiano Ronaldo, Januzaj's performances have constantly shown touches of genius, but even Ronaldo was producing nothing like the ruthlessness of some of the Belgian's play. Already, there seems to be a fine balance between flair and pragmatism.

Manchester United's academy has helped them significantly in recent years in dealing with the massive financial disadvantage they have in competing with Chelsea and Manchester City. As well as bringing in extra funds by producing an absurd number of decent players sold on to smaller clubs, the handful of free players it has brought to the club have allowed the club to avoid the worst of their decline. But Chelsea have a more impressive crop of youngsters now, using their money to more sensibly recruit at a younger age and take advantage of the loan system, so the benefits of the academy are now under threat too.

What they do not have, however, is a player of such extremely precocious talents. Nathaniel Chalobah, Chelsea's most outstanding prodigy and the same age as Januzaj, has been impressive in the Championship. He has a while to go, however, before being one of the most important players on a title-winning team. They are, quite literally, not in the same league at present.

With young players being more hyped up than ever, it's easy to underestimate Januzaj. But to repeat that he is one of the outstanding players at 18 for the current Champions of England, it becomes increasingly clear that his potential is a once-in-a-generation type. Comparisons to Ronaldo could be made, but Januzaj is certainly better than he was at 18. Of course, he may not have the untold drive to become the best player in the world, and is less likely to have the frame of an adonis lurking inside him and waiting to burst out and dominate defenders. He will have to rely on the more unreliable traits of imagination and technique, but his current level of skill cannot be denied.

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