Manchester United manager David Moyes continues to tinker with the club's starting lineup in an effort to find a winning combination. His latest attempt to spark the attack came by way of inserting Adnan Januzaj for the clash with Sunderland.
The 18-year-old winger caught the eye of many after displaying impressive form during the preseason. He first showcased terrific potential as a youth player with Anderlecht and made steady progress after moving to United a couple years ago.
Now, Moyes feels he's ready to crack the starting lineup for a club desperately seeking a boost. United have been the biggest disappointment in the Premier League early. They sit in the middle of the table after winning the championship last term.
UPDATE: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 3:35 p.m. ET by Tim Daniels
The gamble paid off for Moyes.
Januzaj scored twice in the second half to prove he warranted the starting selection while also giving United a much-needed victory heading into the international break. The frustration was starting to boil over after they allowed a goal five minutes in and trailed Sunderland at halftime.
After the half, Januzaj became more involved in the attack and carried United to the lead with a pair of perfect strikes. There were some tense moments late, but they held on for three key points, allowing the 18-year-old winger to finish as the hero.
His first goal came about 10 minutes after the break and had so much pace it shook the net.
The second goal was a picture-perfect volley that somehow found its way through a maze of defenders, past Kieren Westwood and into the corner of the net. He had to hit it perfectly in order for all those things to happen, and he did.
Credit to Moyes for giving him a chance and even more credit to Januzaj for taking full advantage of his opportunity to shine. The result was a critical win for United.
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One thing Januzaj has shown every step of the way is supreme confidence on the ball. Most young players are prone to making the simple pass or shying away from taking a chance at goal. They fear making mistakes, so they play very conservative.
That hasn't been the case for the rising star from Belgium. He isn't afraid to rely on his creativity to attempt pinpoint crosses or unleash a shot from distance with hopes of catching the goalkeeper out of position.
Over time, he will gain valuable experience and become more precise on the attack, learning when to push forward with pace and when to back off. But for now, he's a talented player who's going to rely on his instincts.
Quite frankly, that's exactly what United need right now. They have fallen into a rut, which started when they got blown out by rival Manchester City.
The lineup has lacked creativity, as illustrated by the fact that the Red Devils haven't scored more than one goal in a match since the middle of last month. They energy and attacking mindset has gone missing, and Moyes must find a way to bring it back.
He hopes Januzaj, who's made four appearances off the bench this season, is the player who can bring some vitality back into the equation. He'll make smart runs while also helping control possession and pace.
The move comes with risk, of course. If the opportunity proves too much for Januzaj, Moyes will open himself up to further criticism after the club's slow start. But he at least deserves credit for trying something new.
United should try to get Januzaj involved with a lot of touches early to see if he can find his comfort zone. Fans might just be surprised by the results if he does.
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