Adnan Januzaj has all the makings of a world-class footballer. That much is without question.
However, Manchester United are playing a risky game by using him so frequently at this early stage of his career.
At just 18 years of age, Januzaj flourished during preseason and was one of the bright sparks during United’s gloomy summer months. That he has carried his form into the season is indicative of his footballing maturity.
Such promising displays on United’s left-hand side have got United fans purring, and his five-year contract means that he is likely to be a central figure at Old Trafford over the coming years.
But football is a cruel game and United need to be cautious.
Januzaj must be eased in slowly and not thrown in at the deep end. There is a risk with such a young man that he could burn out physically and mentally if he is relied upon too much.
Let’s explore why modern history tells us that David Moyes must be careful, and how the Scot can get the most out of Januzaj in the long-term.
Too Much Football, Too Soon
When young players are exposed to too much, too soon, they tend to suffer later in their careers.
He is one of the most naturally gifted English players in the Premier League and yet, he demonstrates his talent all too infrequently. Plagued by injury, he has yet to string together two full seasons of football.
We can also draw parallels from Raheem Sterling’s young career.
Now on the fringes of the Liverpool team, Sterling was a starter under Brendan Rodgers last year.
But he was played too often and was fatigued, perhaps mentally as much as anything else, before the end of his first full season. This season, he has only started one of Liverpool’s 10 Premier League games.
Could the same happen to Adnan Januzaj? Of course it could.
But when any player is playing well, regardless of their age, it’s difficult to suddenly cut their playing time. And that brings us on nicely to the next point…
The Temptation for David Moyes
The 21 seconds in the video above showcase a footballer with technique, flair and confidence.
Januzaj’s game-winning performance against Sunderland is exactly why David Moyes will be tempted to keep on playing the youngster.
And you couldn’t begrudge him for it either, could you?
Similarly, he dazzled against Fulham by proving that he can mix it with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. The three players each had an assist in the game at Craven Cottage, in what was a blistering start from Moyes’ side.
That triumvirate is an exciting prospect for Manchester United looking ahead.
Moyes must resist temptation, though, by using Januzaj carefully in his first full season. That way, he’ll get the most out of the youngster in the future.
How to Get the Most Out of Adnan Januzaj
David Moyes is tasked with ensuring that Januzaj continues to develop and fulfils his potential at Old Trafford. So, how does he do that?
Patience, in a word.
Moyes must push Januzaj to progress as he would with any other player; he just needs to temper the growing expectations of United fans by protecting him.
He’s been through this before, of course. After all, Moyes was the one who gave Rooney his first taste of Premier League football at Everton.
Moyes has already spoken of Januzaj’s development, per The Metro, promoting caution:
I’m trying to keep the reins on him. It is a bit like I had with Wayne [Rooney] when he was a young player. I remember I used to get a bit of criticism because we played Wayne on the left a couple of times. You can’t always get the young players right in and when you do, you try to find the right slots for them.
As United’s fixtures pile-up in the coming months, Moyes will likely turn to Januzaj to play on the left wing.
But that’s not where he sees the youngster playing in the long-term. Moyes added: “In time, Adnan’s best position will be No.10. But while he’s so young, it is better to introduce him on the left or right.”
Ultimately, David Moyes faces a paradox. He can continue to play Januzaj and reap the rewards, knowing all the while that he risks the youngster burning out before the season is over.
If we reflect on David Moyes’ managerial career, however, there is reason to believe that he will treat the situation with care.
At Everton, Moyes was in charge of Ross Barkley and avoided exposing the midfield starlet to too much football.
He must use similar restraint with Adnan Januzaj.
After just 10 Premier Leagues games this season, Januzaj has already demonstrated that he could become a world-beater sooner rather than later.
The challenge for David Moyes is to resist overusing the youngster and ensure that he is part of the starting lineup later rather than sooner.