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“Manchester United teenager Adnan Januzaj rescued manager David Moyes from another dangerous situation when he inspired a vital victory at Sunderland.”
– BBC Sport, October 5, 2013
David Moyes had had an uneven start to his tenure as Manchester United manager at the start of the 2013/14 season.
The new boss, personally chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson to continue his legacy of success, had seen his team lift the Community Shield at Wembley and win handsomely at Liberty Stadium on opening day against Swansea. There was also a 0-0 draw against a dangerous Chelsea.
But United were also beaten in Liverpool early on and thrashed in a Manchester derby. Moyes was not equipped with the investment he needed as a new top structure struggled to get going and targets like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas fell short.
United ended September losing at home to West Brom for the first time in 35 years.
He made an absolutely vital result against Sunderland in the next game, although things got off to a bad start when Moyes saw his team fall behind after five minutes.
But United and Moyes had a potential superstar in the making in Adnan Januzaj.
The Belgian winger had joined the club from Anderlecht at the age of 16 and was named to the bench by Ferguson in his last game in charge in May 2013. Januzaj did not come onto the pitch that day, but sat next to Ryan Giggs, Paul. Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.
Januzaj made his Community Shield debut and was drafted back into the first team for a home win against Crystal Palace in mid-September, taking his Premier League bow from the bench.
Moyes had turned to the teenager at halftime against West Brom and then opted to place him early on against Sunderland for his full professional debut.
The initial pressure on Moyes would have built even faster had Januzaj not stepped in, serving as a breath of fresh air for an otherwise stale and formless United front of four.
Januzaj kicked off the move for his first goal, keeping Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole at bay and swinging the ball to Patrice Evra down the left. Januzaj kept moving, ghosting into the penalty area unmarked and finding the Frenchman’s center. It was a serene first attempt on his weaker right foot to send United back into the game.
His second goal of the match, which turned out to be the winner, was even more memorable. A half-clear center from Nani fell towards him in the left corner of the area and he quickly readjusted his feet, watched the ball as it fell from the sky and struck cleanly through the goal into the far lower corner of Sunderland’s net. .
It was a notable shock to a teenage rookie in the game, similar to Marcus Rashford when he burst onto the scene two and a half years later.
“He is a wonderful player and someone we think of a lot,” Moyes said. BBC Sport At the time.
“I would have tried to get him into the team a few weeks ago [but] for different reasons it just didn’t happen. The way he’s trained and the way he’s played, he deserves it.
“He is a really good player and he can do most things. Even finding his best position… he can play in so many different positions and gives us many variations. It is a true talent.
“I gave Wayne [Rooney] his debut at Everton [in 2002], I gave Ross Barkley his debut too [in 2011] spirit [Januzaj] it’s certainly in its category, that’s for sure. “
After the game against Sunderland, Januzaj started three of United’s next four Premier League games, getting an assist in the win over Fulham. From then on he remained a regular starter, rested here and there, and had made 38 appearances in all competitions by the end of the campaign.
Januzaj was rewarded for his club form by being called up by Belgium and made his country’s selection for the World Cup that summer in Brazil.
He seemed to be at the start of a very special career and faith in him at Old Trafford was such that he was presented with the number 11 jersey before 2014/15. Only Ryan Giggs had worn it in the Premier League era and it remains synonymous with legend.
However, rather than just the beginning, the 2013/14 season proved to be as good as Januzaj as a United player. Working with a new manager at Louis van Gaal, he didn’t have the same impact, and has often pointed to the Dutchman as a reason his development stalled.
Januzaj made just 28 more appearances in the United jersey prior to loans to Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland, where he had such an enormous impact on his United debut as a teenager, paving the way for a permanent exit to Real Sociedad in 2017. .