How did Manchester United get themselves into this mess?

Adnan Januzaj

Manchester United have been here before, a talented youngster on the books who sees his future elsewhere in spite of the persistent overtures from his current club.

Adnan Januzaj’s performance against Sunderland on the weekend will inevitably spark memories of Paul Pogba’s departure from Manchester United last year, but are the club well off the beaten path in terms of handling fresh talents?

Why are United in this situation again? For one, the club has its principles, and shelling out £20,000-£60,000 on an unproven youngster isn’t the way they want to do things. Should that be criticised? Yes and no. There is a balance that needs to be preserved in terms of hierarchy within the squad, and if United wish to stray along the path of reality despite their financial wealth – how many 18-year-olds are worth that sort of money? – then in some way they should be applauded.

But there can be a way of fine tuning the situation and getting the best of both worlds. The current United regime will rightly have many fans worried. The failed efforts to properly strengthen the squad in the summer could dictate the outcome of Janazaj’s contract negotiations. Questions need to be asked as to whether United have people capable of effectively handling contract extensions and transfers.

The thing is, United will do their best to play this one down to the wire, unless of course they land on a financial deal that suites them. While the club have been here before with Paul Pogba, it’s also worth remembering that young stars can fizz out into nothing, such as with Federico Macheda. The large majority of fans and many onlookers will say that Janazaj is a different proposition, a different calibre of talent and one who will justify a large layout in the near future. But we simply don’t know that. As fickle as football fans can be, the game itself has its ways of offering up one thing and then completely shifting course soon after.

United are right to be cautious with Janazaj’s extension, though David Moyes in particular and the club as a whole should not become slaves to the idea that every young player wants to play for United. That may be the case for British youngsters and it certainly may have been true with Alex Ferguson at the helm, but United isn’t the pinnacle of every football culture, and with Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid reportedly after Janazaj, there is reason to be concerned that the player may hold greater personal affection for any of those clubs than he does his current.

But away from that, United have a duty to restore some face after the loss of Pogba a little over a year ago. There is every possibility that Janazaj is a one hit wonder who won’t amount to much in his future, but losing another player with his projected potential would become something of an embarrassment for the club.

The finer details of the Janazaj situation behind the scenes aren’t too clear: we don’t know what has been said by Moyes and specifically what his intentions are for the youngster. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that another youngster two years older than Janazaj scored a similar volley in midweek against a Champions League side, not a team propping up their domestic league table. Lewis Holtby is a proven talent and Schalke know exactly what they have with him. He could have jumped ship earlier this year but his club found a way to strike a balance that suited both parties. It’s not impossible for United to do the same, but much better handling than we’ve seen in the past is paramount.

Are United poorly run on this front?

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