Undoubtedly two of the most gifted and talented youngsters in European football, Belgian international Adnan Januzaj and Brazilian youth star Andreas Pereira have been classified as the future of Manchester United. The Red Devils are one of the few elite clubs in Europe that believes in the development of their own talent from the academy through to the first team. The traditions at Old Trafford have always been centred around faith in their academy graduates and the fans also demand that youngsters get their opportunity in the first team.
However not all players get the opportunity to elevate themselves from the academy and straight into the first team set-up. In youth development, a loan move also play a critical role in their education as they seeks first team opportunities but cannot be afforded that by the parent club. Such move is said to allow players to mature being away from home, family and friends as well as giving youngsters the opportunity to hone their craft while playing at a high level. In the case of Januzaj and Pereira, their progress may have been halted due to poor decisions not only from their club but also from agents/advisors/representatives.
Complimented by Sir Alex Ferguson as one of the best talents at the club since Paul Scholes, Januzaj burst onto the scene in the summer of 2013 under the guidance of David Moyes. The mercurial Belgian wizard impressed on their summer tour and forced his way into Moyes’ plans for the season with a string of dazzling performances. The 21-year-old made a total of 35 appearances that season including 19 starts hitting the back of the net on four occasions and also grabbed 4 assists. The Red Devils endured a horrible season however the form and promise shown by the Belgian as well as the form of David De Gea were the only light in perhaps the darkest ever tunnel at Old Trafford.
The former Anderlecht youth player showed excellent balance on the ball, good pace in his game, excellent technical qualities and great courage as he was never afraid to show his ability under immense pressure to deliver results. His form was so impressive that he secured a place in Marc Wilmots’ 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil. He was evidently feeling good about himself and his confidence could not have been any higher as expectations grew. However after a 7th place finish and the club evidently in a rebuilding phase, was it the best place for a 19-year-old to carry on with competition for places more intense with the arrival of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and Radamel Falcao?
Perhaps not. At that point of his career after a breakout campaign, the left footed magician needed first team opportunities every week or most weeks to continue his development and progress. After such a season, a young player will only get better if he can work on his game week by week to improve upon his education, maturity and physical conditioning. Under new boss Louis van Gaal, who spent quite lavishly on new players, there was a very intense pressure to at least secure Champions League football hence there was little room for the natural inconsistency of young players learning their trade.
In that moment, the best decision would have been to send Januzaj on loan to a club where first team football was guaranteed almost every week at a high level in order to continue his education and develop his game. Instead, he was cast aside playing at the U21 level which would only maintain his fitness levels as it could no longer contribute to his development. He got a few chances in the first team but there was evidence that he had lost confidence as the swagger in his play had gone into hiding. The arrogance of the previous season to run at defenders was nowhere to be seen as he opted to take the safer route.
Fast forward to last summer, Januzaj opted to join Borussia Dortmund on loan but whoever advised him on that move made a poor judgement. The BVB had a poor season and was looking to bounce back and also changed managers. More astonishingly was the fact that he moved to a club that arguably had better players in his position than at United where he could hardly get a kick. In that instant his chances of playing reduced even further and this should have been an easy decision for his representatives. There were other clubs in Germany that he could have joined where first team football was guaranteed most weeks namely Hamburg, Mainz, Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim and Cologne. These are clubs that have a good record with developing young attacking players in his position and as such more research should have been done before making a decision.
Januzaj managed just 17 appearances at the Signal Iduna Park with only 6 starts which all came in the Europa League. Since his return to Old Trafford in January, the Belgian has been used mostly at the U21 level after making only two substitute appearances in the Premier League. He now seems to be way down the pecking order and Marcus Rashford have since moved ahead of him in terms of first team selection.
Pereira suffered the same fate after a string of scintillating performances last summer for Brazil at the U20 World Cup. The 20-year-old was on fire last summer showing top class ball control, great dribbling ability and his exceptional imagination in the final third. With his stocks on the rise and confidence very high it was the perhaps the best opportunity to secure a loan move for the former PSV Eindhoven youngster. At United he faced competition from Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and even Januzaj was ahead of him for the playmaking role. His chances for first team action was extremely slim however he was persuaded to stay at the club by van Gaal.
In retrospect based on the pressure and demands at the club, Pereira should have been allowed to look elsewhere for first team opportunities for his development. At his level in this present moment, the U21 will not allow him to improve and as such his qualities and ability have been put to waste this season. A move to any of the clubs listed earlier would have been ideal for his education and development instead he was forced to stay at Old Trafford where he had just 2 starts in the League Cup.
With better management and long term vision for the development of these two naturally gifted youngsters, the Red Devils should have sent them out on loan to clubs where first team opportunities are aplenty. One can argue that Paul Pogba would not have been half the player he is today if he had stayed at Old Trafford instead of moving to Juventus where he got the opportunity to establish himself. Kevin De Bruyne is another example who left Chelsea to join a very poor Werder Bremen team on loan that he saved from relegation in the 2012/2013 season. His spell at Werder led to a bid from Borussia Dortmund that was rebuffed by Chelsea but returned to Germany with Wolfsburg and the rest is history.
There are many uncertainties surrounding Man United in this present moment but come May things might become a bit clearer. Both players could be tempted by permanent offers from other clubs this summer and United fans could be in for another Pogba scenario. However if both players see their future at Old Trafford, they must go elsewhere for first team opportunities if they are to have any chance of succeeding at United. It is best to go to another country to reignite their careers away from the attention and hype of the English media. Portugal and Germany are very good with young players but whatever happens this summer, their decisions will be extremely vital to their futures starting next season.