Mark Hughes has urged David Moyes to stop standing up on behalf of Manchester United's latest teenage sensation Adnan Januzaj, following comments the Scot made about referees not giving the midfielder enough protection.
Having been around for some of the scrappier days at Old Trafford himself, the Stoke City boss knows all too well the pressures of coping as a young Red Devil, making his first-team debut for the club not long after his 20th birthday in November 1983, per the official Manchester United website.
However, Hughes believes Moyes' latest prodigy is already wise to the game, reported by Neil Moxley of the Daily Mail:
Januzaj is a big talent and I’m sure he will be a big talent for many years to come, but sometimes you have to let kids stand on their own two feet and get on with it.
However, Januzaj does seem to garner a number of fouls and get a lot of decisions. In our game he got five free-kicks in a very short space of time and at the time I didn’t think they were fouls. So maybe that’s a side of his game that needs to be looked at as well.
Hughes is referring to the Premier League encounter between United and Stoke in October, which the Old Trafford hosts won 3-2, Januzaj appearing as a second-half substitute.
Since then, the Belgian-born youngster has seen more involvement in first-team matters, appearing in 10 games this season, six of which have been as part of the starting XI.
According to Squawka, Januzaj has suffered 35 fouls in that period, equating to an average of 3.5 free-kicks per game, a number which could be higher considering almost half of those appearances have been from the bench.
One Manchester United fan account has, however, praised the playmaker for his deceiving strength:
Earlier in the week, the Telegraph's Mark Ogden quoted Moyes saying that officials were leaving the starlet open to aggressive tactics from the opposition, adding:
I’m annoyed with the fourth official and referees because, before you know it, the boy will get a sore one as he is definitely not getting protected by the officials. It’s terrible what they are allowing to go on at the moment.
However, regardless of how young the player might be, one would argue that it's up to the manager to judge how early their players are thrown into the fray.
At just 18 years of age, Januzaj is currently the youngest talent at Old Trafford getting regular first-team minutes, but he is already showing the potential to become a talismanic presence, rescuing the club with a brace against Sunderland on Oct. 5.
Moyes must accept that football is a game played by hardened professionals who have no obligation to hold back purely due to a rival's lack of experience.
In any case, Januzaj won't be getting any special treatment when his side travel to the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday evening, as the Potters seek to mount further woe upon Moyes' boys in the Capital One Cup.