The sun didn’t shine at The Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening. For the many admirers of Adnan Januzaj, It didn’t need to. Rain or shine they pray to see the latest ace to roll off Manchester United’s youthmobile. Young Adnan was not in the squad for United’s visit to Swansea, a startling omission perhaps explained by the need to protect United’s greatest hope in a week when the young ace was perhaps excessively hyped in the media. Maybe the sun knew he hadn’t been picked.
Januzaj would not want it this way. Here is a humble man, maybe even a boy, who wants to let his feet do the talking. And what feet. I’ve never seen his feet, but those who have speak of smooth skin, buffed nails and an aura about them that speaks of a glorious future. These are not the rough, calloused feet of a Vinny Jones, or the wayward feet of a John Terry, nor the hairy feet of a Richard Keys. These feet are United’s past, present and future. No wonder then that David Moyes is keen to keep these feet under wraps, for now.
The rain that buffeted the south coast of Wales would not have been appropriate for Januzaj’s spectrum of skills. He befits sunnier days and sterner challenges, a grander stage, and a more appreciative crowd. His time will come. It is, as Brad Pitt might say, inevitable.
But rest assured, he is in safe hands. David Moyes will nurture, protect and develop this new talent just as his predecessor would have done. Junazaj is at the right place, and he understands this inherently. This is a club that has a biblical devotion to young talent, that nurtures as thoroughly as a protective mother swan or baboon. The first of Moyes’ babes will be just fine.
The elegance of Cruyff, the poise of Euesbio, the calm of Beckenbauer. Comparisons are readily bandied about. These comparisons are not exaggerations. Perhaps they even understate the case. Even sat on the bench, young Adnan Januzaj reminds me eerily of Bobby Charlton, without the comb-over. A man born eerily close to the same date as Christiano Ronaldo, or Neymar. So eerily close it is in fact the same day. There is something in the stars on 5th February, it seems.
Belgian football is facing a renaissance in recent years, their national team studded with stars, but it is young Adnan Januzaj, yet to take his first confident steps to international glory, that is the main topic of conversation in the smoky bars of Antwerp or the brothels of Bruges. This is the man the team of 2016 will be built around. Unless he decides to play for Albania.
As I left the ground, surrounded by joyous United fans, their Mancunian patois drifting merrily across the breeze, I asked a few of them about United’s newest star. Their faces lit up as they expressed themselves. Kevin Eric Andrei Ryan Potter could not hold back in his praise for the young Belgian starlet.
“Personally, Adnan reminds me of Diego Maradona. He has the same ball control, the same skill-set, and the ability to produce something from nothing, but without Maradona’s attitude, or excess weight. He’s also younger than Maradona was at his age.”
Martin from Guadelope was similarly effusive: “I’ve not seen him play yet but he reminds me of Georgie at his prime – the pomp and the ceremony, with the cheek and wit of a Law and the enthusiasm of a young Beckham and a natural arrogance of someone who knows they are good, but has the modesty to keep his counsel. There are no guarantees in football but he will soon be one of the world’s best.”
And as I walked towards the car park, a man with a glint in his eye and a spring in his step bounded up to me, and handed me a sheet of paper. Before I could speak, he had gone. Had I imagined his very existence? On the paper was a simple but classic poem, that spoke not only for me, not only for all those children that dream of one day stepping out onto the hallowed turf of their favourite club, but to those of us who time has defeated, and are left to rely on others to provide glory for them on their behalf. It spoke for every fan, and it spoke about Adnan Januzaj.
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can dream of K Stand – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think like Rooney – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Anderson and Bebe
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can make one heap of all your winning runs
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and toss,
And lose, and start again at your humble beginnings
And never breathe a word about your undeserved loss to an offside goal;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after the 80,000 passionate reds are gone,
If you can talk with football crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Glaziers – nor lose the common touch,
if neither Ashley Williams nor loving friends can hurt you,
If you can fill the 7th minute of Fergie-time
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man United legend, Adnan.
I walked quietly and briskly to my car. I closed the door to the noise of the outside world. I took a deep breath.
And I wept.