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“I always have confidence in my players but we don’t only have Wayne Rooney in the striker’s position. We have Adnan Januzaj,” said Louis Van Gaal ahead of Manchester United’s first leg of their Champions League play-off with Club Brugge.
15 days later and they no longer have Adnan Januzaj, after a bizarre change of stance that is perhaps unsurprising given the chaotic way in which United’s manager has finished his summer’s business.
Januzaj has been sent out for a year-long loan spell with Borussia Dortmund; a deal that has been overshadowed by the shambolic handling of David De Gea’s potential move Real Madrid, the sale of Javier Hernandez to Bayer Leverkusen and the outrageous £36 million move for Monaco’s relatively unproven Anthony Martial. It has formed a transfer policy that appears to be off-the-cuff with Van Gaal and United devoid of a clear and logical plan.
Short on firepower
With United seemingly short on firepower having scored just 3 goals in their opening 4 Premier League games and Wayne Rooney struggling to make an impact in a central striker role, defeat to Swansea reiterated the urgency with which the attack-line needed bolstering. Martial comes in but at 19 years of age is a raw talent, so it is odd to witness Hernandez, even taking into account Van Gaal’s angry reaction to the Mexican’s missed penalty in Bruges, and Januzaj both depart.
Last season’s loan spell at Real Madrid and his reluctance to use him to ease the burden on Rooney in the early stages of this campaign suggests the Dutch coach was never sold on Hernandez so his exit was perhaps to be expected, but for Januzaj, a 20 year old loaded with potential and who has started four games under Van Gaal this term, it came as a surprise to see the Belgian posing with his yellow number 9 shirt and declaring his excitement for the season ahead in Germany.
If there was a debt for Van Gaal to pay his young charge for winning the game at Aston Villa on match-day two then the manager seems to have no intention of paying it, sacrificing Januzaj at half-time in Brugge after an ineffectual, lightweight first period.
Januzaj – Dortmund’s gain
It would not have gone lost on United’s coaching set-up that three goals came after the interval with Ander Herrera in the role behind the striker and how they appeared more fluent without Januzaj. At Swansea Januzaj missed out through injury but Van Gaal had already been convinced that he was not needed for this season regardless of the apparent shortage of threat and guile in the final third.
He is now however Dortmund’s gain and, with the reign of Thomas Tuchel starting apace with 11 goals from their opening three Bundesliga matches (on top of the 17 they hit in their four Europa League qualifying ties) to position them top heading into the season’s first international break, some added fire-power will definitely be welcomed.
With Jakub Blaszczykowski allowed out on loan to Fiorentina and Ciro Immobile leant to Sevilla it opens up a place for Januzaj who will join Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus and Shinji Kagawa in a potent forward-line that seems to now be gelling under Tuchel after a difficult end to the Jurgen Klopp era.
Tuchel’s patient and measured approach should suit Januzaj
A more patient, measured attacking approach, in contrast to Klopp’s direct, heavy-pressure style, in which players are urged to play short, crisp passes across the pitch to ensure more efficient use of possession has helped and Januzaj’s vast technical ability, as well as his clever movement, should see him adapt quickly to Tuchel’s approach.
Also, you get the sense that the hyper-attentive culture of Tuchel, a manager who likes detailed input on diet, fitness and where players position their feet, will be a better education for Januzaj at this stage than the disorderly rule of Van Gaal who found time and patience so scarce that he could not find room in his team for the £57 million Angel Di Maria.
That is possibly behind Van Gaal’s thinking, with the absence of a permanent option in the deal indicating that the Dutchman is hoping that he can return to Old Trafford a much more accomplished force having undertaken this vital stage of his development away from the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
Tuchel had success nurturing the talents of Sami Khedira and Sebastian Rudy at VFB Stuttgart as well as Andre Schurrle at Mainz, while the loan deals for Schalke’s Lewis Holtby and Real Madrid’s Adam Szalai greatly contributed to the 2010-11 season in which he guided Mainz to fifth in the Bundesliga, their highest ever finish.
United will be hoping he can work similar magic in progressing Januzaj who definitely possesses the promise, but requires the correct tutelage and guidance to produce it on a regular basis.
Januzaj’s move could be the best for both parties
It can be argue the Old Trafford club are right to prioritise the needs of the player ahead of the need for attacking options in a season that promises to be hugely pivotal to the manager in charge. Van Gaal will be aware that his 20 year old will be better learning in an environment where the spotlight is not thrust upon him and where the pressure to impress is not greatly felt.
The opportunity to have Januzaj blossom in these exciting times for Dortmund is one United couldn’t miss out on, despite the paucity of numbers in their own attack.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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