In Adnan Janzaj’s first start for Manchester United he scored two goals to give us a 2-1 win away to Sunderland after going a goal behind. That season under David Moyes was incredibly bleak but Januzaj was one of the few positives. You got excited when he was on the ball and felt like he could make something happen.
On Thursday night United will play Real Sociedad in the Europa League, Januzaj’s current club, who are fifth in La Liga at the moment. Speaking with the UEFA website, the former United winger has spoken of the feelings he still has for the club.
I love United a lot, they’re my favourite club, and even to this day I watch every single game of theirs because I love the club. Obviously, when I saw that I would have to play against United, it was a bit of a weird feeling. But at the end of the day I want to play them and try to beat them, to show them also what they have missed and stuff like that.
I’m sure also that [for] the other young boys that play for Real Sociedad, it’s a dream to play at Old Trafford. It will probably be one of the biggest games in their career, so I think it will be amazing for everybody.
When I first went to England, I was like “why am I here?”. The language was different, the people were different. It was really difficult. But then, the team-mates I had at United, the people that were working at United, were amazing people, people that really, really helped me and that were pushing me. I had really great coaches from a young age who also pushed me. That’s the most important thing for a young player.
I also had players that I grew up with, like Paul Pogba. We were in the classroom together for a few years, so it gave me a bit more confidence, I had more fun. It was like one year to help me integrate into the English mentality. I really loved that. For me, my best memories were when I was in England.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game as United manager he put Januzaj on the bench, alerting his successor to the talent we had in the academy. Januzaj has talked about what Fergie’s belief in him meant to him.
It was in training when he was always pushing me. He [said]: “Adnan, you have to work, you have to work, work, work because with your talents, you’re going to make it here because you have very great potential.” Sir Alex was someone that really believed in me, and obviously when he left the club, I was very sad because I thought if he was still there, I would also still be there. But at the end of the day, football takes you somewhere else.
Januzaj finished his first season with 10 goals and assists in all competitions and the future looked bright. However, when Moyes was replaced by Louis van Gaal, things started to go downhill for Januzaj. He had half as much playing time as in the season before in the Dutchman’s first year in charge and then was loaned out to Borussia Dortmund the following campaign. Speaking with The Daily Mail, Januzaj has spoken about the negative impact Van Gaal had on his career.
I know my qualities, I know who I am. I don’t have to show United or anybody that I’m a good player. I just have to believe in myself. Regrets? I could say maybe a small regret. Because I know I had the quality to show the people how good I was. That’s my regret.
When I played my first season at United and came through the academy, people were showing me love. The coaches were letting me enjoy my football. Then obviously when a coach (Van Gaal) comes who doesn’t show you love, it gets more difficult to prove yourself and be happy.
When Sir Alex Ferguson was talking to us, he gave us a bit of hope. “Work hard, your time will come”. Even if you had a bad pass, Van Gaal would shout at you. For young players that isn’t good, you have to teach them. A coach is like a teacher, that’s what I missed the most.
It wasn’t only to me but also to other young players. To Memphis (Depay) also, he’s a great player and you can see he’s making a difference with Lyon in France. As young players we just had to sit there and wait for our opportunity to play for 10 or 15 minutes. Okay, we can show a glimpse of our quality but you cannot show how good you are.
You can see Ole is really nice and loves the players from the academy. For young players like Marcus they are very lucky to have a coach like that. When you are a young boy and you’re being criticised for things you never did – the coach’s excuse was that I wasn’t training very well – I couldn’t understand. You play like you train. If I was doing well in games, I don’t think I was that bad in training. People had a bad image of me and that’s the one regret, that I had lot people questioning my mentality.
Van Gaal told me at the last minute that I could go on loan and I was rushed off to Germany. Maybe I went too early but I just wanted to play football. I didn’t want to be sat on the bench for six or seven games in a row.