An absolute whirlwind of a summer transfer window it was. Arguably, the busiest the club has had in years. Louis Van Gaal, during the summer, oversaw an influx of players from a variety of different leagues but also showed the door to a boatload of them, some expected, while a few others, totally out of the blue. While the departures of Robin Van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria in the same window is something one can hardly envisage despite their sub-par performances in almost the entirety of last season, some of the transfer dealings/decisions of Manchester United in the summer, especially towards the end of the window has been, can I say, dodgy?
One such questionable decision was loaning out Adnan Januzaj to German giants Borussia Dortmund. United brought in Memphis Depay to inject some pace and flair on the left from champions PSV, who was undeniably the best player in the whole of the Eredivisie in 2014/15. The Dutchman has had his moments since making his debut in August, it has to be said, in the Premier League, yet found out at times, clearly unsettled by the physical side and the quicker tempo in England when compared to the Dutch league and in fact the Champions League, which should explain his better performances in Europe than against domestic opposition.
Januzaj, on the contrary, started the season on a brighter note, scoring United’s first goal from open play against Villa, converting a brilliant chance created by Juan Mata, but went quiet in the next few games that followed. The Belgian then agreed to move out on loan for first team opportunities elsewhere which is when Dortmund threw the hat on the ring, to acquire the services of the 20-year old for a year. Januzaj did make a promising start to life at the Signal Iduna Park, scoring on his debut and proving his quality. However, could Van Gaal have been more patient with him and given him more minutes in England?
On Sunday, when Manchester United conceded three goals against Arsenal in as early as 20 minutes at the Emirates, Louis Van Gaal was left with no real pace, no game-changers on the bench, to alter the pattern of play and get some momentum out of it. The substitutions he made, or was forced to make rather, were made only to limit any further damage and not inflict some on the opposition. That is not meant to say Januzaj would have come on and destroyed Arsenal in the second half yet he could have been a much better option to come on and rattle the full-back than someone like Fellaini who is an out-and-out plan B type player and what should be a last resort for a club that aspires to challenge for the league title.
Looking at what Januzaj and Memphis have done for their respective clubs so far, it is quite surprising on hindsight (it usually is) to realise that the Belgian has fared better in a new environment, despite fewer minutes on the pitch as opposed to the Dutchman. The 20-year old has created more chances, made more key passes, scored as many and created more goals than Depay, in a different league, which is quite impressive considering the short time he took to settle (clearly more determined to impress Van Gaal?). He’s also had a better success ratio in take-ons if that is of any importance but the fact of the matter is the manager could have persisted with Adnan, given the dearth of options he’s having to deal with up front and in the wide areas, at this very moment in time.
Although the comparison could be deemed a touch unfair on Depay, considering the sample space and the same old ‘Premier League is the hardest to play in’ logic, if anything is clear, it is the fact that Januzaj can offer more than what most players at United can and should have given more time on the pitch for him to develop at Old Trafford. As to what Van Gaal’s plans are regarding the loan move, the boss said,
“I have said to Januzaj that I will give him opportunities in the position of nine and maybe of 10. I have done that and then decided that, no, it would be better for him to go to another environment, maybe he will play more with them than me and we can see if he develops himself.”
Maybe he will feature more for Dortmund under their new manager who has made a fantastic start to his debut season. Maybe that will force the Belgian back into Van Gaal’s plans for next season as Januzaj is basically given an year to do that in Germany. With his contract intact until 2018, it is unlikely that United would want to cash in on a promising talent garnering interest from several teams in Europe. But is Van Gaal realistic about bringing him back into the fold this time next year? Only time will tell.