Pretty quiet on the United news front today, what with some jumped up European football competition which we’re deservedly not involved in this year and don’t even want to be in anyway, so there (though for United’s players, watching Arsenal’s performance must have felt like a little like how I feel watching Ashley Young – I know I don’t deserve to be there myself, but secretly suspect I could do a much better job).
A lot of talk this week has focused on the future of Adnan Januzaj, whose hat trick in an under-21 game against Sunderland last weekend has started all sorts of chat about whether he has a future in Louis van Gaal’s squad or might be better off elsewhere.
The general gist seems to be that the 19-year-old was a bright spot for David Moyes but is being shunned thus far by van Gaal. Januzaj played 8 minutes against QPR, coming on for Angel Di Maria to play on the left.
The worry seems to be that if van Gaal sticks with this setup for the foreseeable future – considering how well this worked against (the admittedly appalling) QPR and how patchy the 3-5-2 system appeared this may be the case – Januzaj is stuck behind the club’s record signing. Among the naysayers is ex-United winger Keith Gillespie, who told the Mirror the Belgian wouldn’t be an option for van Gaal at wingback should he revert to 3-5-2, because of his defensive weaknesses.
Januzaj is a talent. He is quick, creative and can score goals as he demonstrated on the weekend. But as an attacking winger or midfielder he now simply finds himself behind an explosion of talent and he’ll need to be patient. Being 19 and pushing Di Maria for a spot in the lineup at Manchester United is a good position to be in.
It is nonsense that he needs to leave the club to “save his career” (by the way, despite the headline, if you can find the part in the article where Gillespie said he ‘needs to leave’, let me know). He’s 19 for goodness’ sake. The propensity for constant drama that this season’s bonkers transfer window has produced seems to have created some kind of fad where any player who isn’t a guaranteed starter in his preferred position every week is suddenly an outcast who needs to catch the first flight out of Manchester.
We saw it with Juan Mata earlier in the season. A by-product of the hysterical debate over United’s best formation was the contention that the Spaniard, who we signed for £37 million, was out on his ear due to the arrival of Falcao and Blind. All it took for that one is a formation tinker and Rio Ferdinand forgetting he was part of a defensive line, and suddenly Mata is the man.
Januzaj is 19 years old and is not a guaranteed starter in a United lineup now boasting a plethora of midfield talent. That’s how it should be. He’s been given the No.11 shirt and will have his chance if he’s sensible and isn’t led astray by his Mr. 15%. Back in May, his agent Dirk de Vries said “money has never been a deciding factor in Januzaj’s choice,” following an “astonishing” offer from PSG shortly before he signed a new contract. So here’s hoping sense prevails for a player who, considering van Gaal’s famed trust in younger players, will get the same shot as everyone else if he sticks around.
Solskjaer’s shambolic time at Cardiff finally comes to an end
It isn’t a great surprise to see that United favourite has left Cardiff by mutual consent, following a poor start to the club’s championship campaign. Ole’s statistics in Wales make for pretty ugly reading – he’s one just nine of his 30 matches in charge of the Bluebirds – and reports of a lack of leadership at the club and constant squad rotation have been a thorn in his side since he was unable to save them for relegation.
When I wrote this about Solskjaer’s prospects back in April shortly after his appalling side lost 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace, I thought it was unlikely that he’d be given the opportunity to bring them back up, so listless did the team look for much of the season. I, like every United fan, wanted to see one of Old Trafford’s most beloved sons excel in the Premiership after his success with Molde in the Norwegian first division, but clearly the learning curve has been a little too steep.
Solskjaer’s habit of constantly tinkering with formations and an ever-spinning rotational system seemed to confuse his players and reports of factions inside the dressing room began to emerge at the tail end of the campaign. This season little has changed and as painful as it is to admit, it appears that Solskjaer has been out of his depth. The best thing for him now might be to start again – take a lower level management job either in the Football League, or do a Roy Keane and work on his managerial pedigree by joining a club as assistant manager.
For Solskjaer, whose gentle personality probably wasn’t ideal for giving players a kick up the backside, hitting the reset button might be what his managerial career needs.