Sunday 19 May 2013
Ahead of Monday’s final of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, premierleague.com is taking a closer look at the two teams.
For United, more than half the players who have featured in the competition are British, but one of the stars of the Under-21 team has been Adnan Januzaj, who has played 18 times, scoring one goal. The 18-year-old was born in Brussels and signed for United from Anderlecht in July 2011. After a promising start, injury curtailed his progress but this season he has been influential pulling the strings from midfield as well as working his influence from the flanks and at free-kicks. His displays prompted praise from Sir Alex Ferguson recently.
"Adnan is a beautifully-balanced player," said Ferguson. "He's only 18 and has to grow into his frame but he has good balance, good acceleration and is a very good technical player. He and Nick Powell, of the younger players, are at the top."
He was also voted the club's Under-21 player of the year by United fans this season.
"Adnan and Nick Powell, of the younger players, are at the top"
Sir Alex Ferguson
Januzaj recently revealed more about his season with the Under-21s to United Review, the club’s matchday programme.
Have you been pleased with your impact at Under-21 level?
Yes. I always try to do my best in every game and try to get in the team. Hopefully, I can try to get in the first team in the future as well.
You had a taste of the action in the pre-season friendly at Aberdeen. How did you enjoy it?
It was a good experience. I really liked it and I hope it won’t be the last time that I play with the first team. I will keep working hard to try and get into the first team. I hope to have a big career at Manchester United.
Did you find it a step up at that level, as you managed to impress?
I think I did well. I always try to work hard for the team and not only for myself. I was really pleased to be with the first team. It was a good feeling and means you have more confidence and can play better.
Was it difficult to leave Anderlecht as they said you were earmarked for the first team there?
It was tough but, when you are coming to Manchester United, it is one of the biggest clubs in the world so you come here with the ambition to try and get in the first team of Manchester United. It’s a much bigger thing.
Is it a brave thing to do at such a young age?
It’s a big decision but you know you always have to keep working. Even if you make a big step, the work carries on until it pays off and you will do something in your career. I have to keep working and do my best.
What have you learned since moving to United?
I have learned a lot of things. When I came here with the Under-18s with Paul McGuinness and the Reserves with Warren Joyce, I have learned loads of things in England with those coaches. Clearly, they are really good coaches and I always try to listen to what they say and do my best to follow their advice. I get to work on what they tell me.
You often play in a floating role – is that your favourite position?
I always try to do my best in each position really. I still keep working hard wherever I play. Even if I need to be in defence, I am still doing my best.
But you’re a creative player so is it important you get on the ball as much as you can?
I really like to play with the ball at my feet. It is more my type of play than defending. I take the set-pieces as well and always try to deliver the best ball I can and do something for the team to help my team-mates.
How rewarding was it to hear Sir Alex talk about your potential?
Of course, it was great. He is a big coach, the boss, and it’s a good feeling. I always want to do better and better but it felt good and was a really big step for me. I hope to achieve something at Manchester United.
No matter how cold it is, Sir Alex is often at the matches.
I love this. He is a big coach, you can’t say anything more about him as he is one of the best in the world, but I don’t think other team’s managers come to watch the Under-18s and the Reserves. But it’s really professional here and I really like it at United. I feel good here.
Warren Joyce also said you really want to be a footballer. It sounds simple but is this a vital trait?
Ever since I was five, I’ve loved to play football and always had the ball at my feet. I am just trying to make a career in it because I really love football and I hope to keep going and do something for the future.
So, finally, what are your ambitions?
I came here to do something and focus on my football. I may be in the Under-21s but it’s good to try and get in the first team even when you’re 18 as well. I would love to go on tour with the first team but we’ll see. I have just got to keep going.
For the full interview with Januzaj and other Under-21 players go to ManUtd.com
You can go to watch Januzaj and the best youngsters at Spurs and United at Old Trafford for just £2. Entrance to the Barclays Under-21 final will be available on the night at Old Trafford. Tickets will be priced at £5 (adults) and £2 (concessions) and entry bought via cash turnstiles at entrance E30 at Old Trafford.
For more on the Manchester United Under-21 team, click here
For more on the Tottenham Hotspur Under-21 team, click here
To view this season's league tables, click here