Following his miracle performance at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago, Adan Januzaj has found himself at the centre of a transfer whirlwind, not to mention the subject of several countries’ interest in terms of international representation.
The two-goal performance against Sunderland rescued all three points for Manchester United in what was the Belgian-born Kosovar’s first start for the club’s first team, possibly crowning the start of something magnificent.
Any doubt over the player's future was put to bed, however, with announcement of a new five-year deal being handed to the youngster by the club's official Twitter account:
However, all off-the-pitch matters aside, Southampton at home should be the only thing concerning Januzaj on Saturday, with his newfound fame likely to diminish unless he can maintain his rise.
For David Moyes, it’s the wide areas that have proven to be just one of several problem positions so far in his Red Devils reign, but Januzaj can provide a glimmer of hope in that sense.
Already this season, as many as seven different players have been tried out on United’s flanks, showing just how uncertain things have been in the last two months or so.
Against the Black Cats, Januzaj lined up on the left side of a creative trio fielded as offensive backup to Robin van Persie as part of a 4-2-3-1 line-up that’s become so fashionable in recent campaigns.
That being said, the 18-year-old did show signs of apprehensiveness despite his brace and took just 61 touches in total, the second lowest of any United player. At the same time, Januzaj did manage to have six shots, just one less than the number managed by the rest of his team combined.
At Old Trafford this weekend, the teenager will be expected to keep the latter high but improve upon the former and grow into his new role with the confidence of his northeast performance under his belt.
In United’s reserves this term, Januzaj has regularly taken on a talismanic approach in behind the striker and operated as one of the main attacking threats of his team, an element that isn’t likely to translate into his outing against the Saints—at least not yet.
For Southampton, the central areas have been among their strongest. Between Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama, Mauricio Pochettino has one of the most in-form midfield anchors in the Premier League.
That partnership is backed up by the centre-back duo of Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte, still the only defensive team to have prevented Liverpool from scoring this league season—and at Anfield at that.
So, one might think that driving to the byline and testing Southampton’s full-backs would be the best option for Januzaj. Except Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw were also mightily impressive against Liverpool, providing presences far more mature than their combined age of 40.
Sunderland, at the time being managed by Kevin Ball, were an altogether more vulnerable target for United to attack than Southampton will be this Saturday, home advantage or not.
Januzaj, like most of the United team, is likely to find the fixture to be a struggle, with not much to choose from between the two outfits at this moment.
The young starlet is going to come up against a defence focused first and foremost on the clean sheet, with Clyne likely to help out his attack when the time calls for it.
In short, Januzaj will be preoccupied with a defensive responsibility should he indeed be rewarded with a starting place, but his stock doesn’t appear likely to soar against a team that has all the means necessary to stage an upset.