David Moyes has been blamed for just about everything going wrong at Manchester United whether it has anything to do with him or not. But one thing going clearly well for the Red Devils is the emergence of Adnan Januzaj.
Sir Alex Ferguson used a policy of loaning players out to develop the best talent from the Manchester United Academy. But as we discussed on the most recent episode of the EPL Talk Podcast, it is entirely possible Ferguson did not develop any truly outstanding individual players after the famous class of 1992. My college Kristan Heneage raised the point, and it was well taken by the panel though I piped in and mentioned that I felt Danny Welbeck could buck that trend. However, Ferguson’s signing of Robin Van Persie in August 2012 undoubtedly stunted Welbeck’s development.
In retrospect, a narrative is being written about Moyes’s time at Everton that is completely incorrect. This narrative claims that youngsters did not develop under Moyes the way they are under Roberto Martinez. The two players that are being used as points of reference in this argument are Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman, both of whom were given many opportunities by Moyes to stand out. It is true that Martinez’s system fits both players skill-sets better than Moyes’s, but the former Everton manager oversaw the development of many younger players coming through from the Toffees acclaimed academy. In fact, in Everton’s run to the 2009-09 FA Cup Final, Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell — both teenagers at the time — played a critical role in securing a berth in the Wembley final against Chelsea.
Now Moyes is working his magic with Januzaj. Putting faith in a talented youngster in a way Ferguson was reluctant to do in his last years as a manager, the player is blossoming in front of the world’s eyes. Moyes has realized quickly his prized young player has a versatility and hunger that can help reverse the Red Devils sagging fortunes. Moyes willingness to devise tactics that showcase Januzaj’s abilities both in wide areas and in the center of the pitch have helped lead United to near the top of the form table, winning five of the club’s last six Premier League matches.
Chelsea awaits Manchester United on Sunday at Stamford Bridge in a match that will go a long way to determining the title aspirations of both clubs. Three seasons ago when the clubs met in Febrruary, United held a 13 point lead over Chelsea who sat fifth in the table. But that day the Blues rallied from a goal down late in the match to win 2-1 and set up a title challenge. By the time Chelsea visited Old Trafford in early May they had cut the deficit to three points, but a loss that day ended the title aspirations of Carlo Ancelloti’s men.
Based on that history of the 2010-11 season, Manchester United could put themselves into title contention with a run similar to Chelsea’s that season (Chelsea took 25 of 27 points to get themselves close to United before the May meeting at Old Trafford). If the Red Devils are going to make that type of run, it will be thanks largely to the faith Moyes has placed in Januzaj at such an early stage of his career.
Last month Moyes spoke about the impact of young midfielder and the lack of protection he is getting from officials.
“I think in every game recently, I don’t know how many tackles have been on Januzaj. That’s why I’m annoyed with the fourth officials and the referees – before you know it the boy will get a sore one because he is definitely not getting protected by the officials.
“It’s terrible what they are allowing to go on at the moment. This boy is an incredible talent, it’s not necessarily the same player but I think they are queuing up and taking turns about who is going to kick him next. There were that many tackles on him from different players and I think it’s something that referees are going to have to think about. They are queuing up to kick him.”
Moyes is protecting his player as any manager would. Opposition sides realize the key to defeating the Red Devils now lies in stopping a teenager and they are in fact looking to play a psychological game with him. Nobody is better at mind games than Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. and entering this weekend’s clash, it is entirely possible that the Blues will get physical with Januzaj.
Big players rise in the big matches and Moyes’s faith in Januzaj will be rewarded in time and might well make a difference this weekend. One thing is for sure. If Sir Alex Ferguson were still managing the club, the young Kosovar would not be the featuring so prominently in the club’s play this season.
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