Following Adnan Januzaj’s fantastic goal against England for Belgium, it’s no surprise that Manchester United fans are grumbling.
Having seen Paul Pogba leave the club for next to nothing, only to star in the Serie A for Juventus, there is a sense of history repeating itself.
United were forced to pay a record breaking £80 million to bring him back and are already wondering how much cash the club may be forced to part with if they’re going to do the same for Januzaj.
The Belgian joined United as a 16-year-old and was named their Reserve Player of the Year, but was allowed to leave he was just 22. Real Sociedad signed him for £10 million in the summer of 2017 following three disappointing seasons, after a brilliant breakthrough year at United.
Under David Moyes, Januzaj emerged as a potentially brilliant player, showing no fear as he took on opposition defences and proving a keen eye for goal.
His first start for the club against Sunderland saw him score two goals to turn a 1-0 defeat in to a 2-1 win. United supporters thought they had a world-class player in the making.
His second season saw him given the no.11 shirt that had been vacated by the retiring Ryan Giggs.
The legendary United winger was a fan of Januzaj and gave him a lot of support as the assistant manager under Louis van Gaal.
However, the Dutchman’s aversion the risk made Januzaj an unpopular member of the squad. He wanted a player who would keep possession, not someone who would try out creative moves that couldn’t guarantee ball retention.
“Everyone knows how many problems I had with him,” Januzaj reflected when joining Real Sociedad last year.
“We didn’t have the best of rapports. It wasn’t easy, it’s very frustrating and difficult when you are in a situation like that. I didn’t have many possibilities to play. I spent a long time on the bench and that makes you lose confidence and minor injuries emerge.
“Many times I wouldn’t play as a starter and you struggle to shine without continuity. The coach would put me in positions that I didn’t know how to play in and I had little experience in. I hope that one day, I can shut up all those people that criticised me.”
However, while Januzaj may be keen to blame Van Gaal for everything, and there is certainly some weight to that argument, the player also had his part to play in his demise.
For both club and country, Januzaj’s attitude has been questioned. Aged 20, he turned down the chance to represent Belgium’s U-21 team and when on loan with Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel was less than impressed with the youngster. His loan spell was cut short after he failed to get in to the team.
“A part of him was always still in Manchester and we just couldn’t help him cut this umbilical cord,” Tuchel said. “He didn’t wholly embrace Borussia. He always compared everything with how it had been at United.”
When Jose Mourinho was appointed, he had high hopes for the youngster. The manager felt Januzaj needed time out on loan but made the sensible decision of sending him to another Premier League club, Sunderland, to play for Moyes, the manager who had taken such a shine to him at United.
“He fits in my plans,” Mourinho said. “That is why he is on loan at a Premier League club. If he doesn’t fit in my plans, I don’t care where he goes, if I don’t care which club, which manager, I just send him to Borussia Dortmund where he didn’t play one match. He is talented.
“But in same squad as Martial, Memphis Depay, Ashley Young, it would mean not many matches. We cannot be selfish. We have to think about the player and in this case, Adnan, and give him all the conditions to play well. We see him every week in this country, we can compare performances. He is in the right place with a manager who likes him a lot. Hopefully everything goes all right because we want him back.”
However, he failed to impress at Sunderland and even Moyes wouldn’t give him a place in the starting team.
It’s little wonder that United thought the time was right to move him on at the end of that season.
He had a bright debut campaign but this was followed by three unimpressive years, so they let him move to La Liga.
Januzaj claimed 10 goals and assists in 21 starts at Real Sociedad last season and has now scored a worldie against England in the World Cup.
Reports suggest that United have a buy-back clause, like they do for Memphis Depay, and Mourinho may well be tempted to take a punt on him. Supports love to see an academy graduate succeed and, even if he has taken an unconventional path, would love to see him banging in the goals at Old Trafford again.
He was a hugely popular figure with the fanbase, who penned two chants for the youngster, when he represented arguably the only positivity during the dark days of Moyes.
However, after setting themselves up for the embarrassment of bringing back Pogba, would the club be prepared the do the same for Januzaj? Surely one goal in the World Cup wouldn’t be enough to convince them.
However, if he continues to dazzle in Russia, he may well be back on their radar.