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Everyone wants everything immediately. There’s no patience in football anymore. Adnan Januzaj made an impressive league debut for United off the bench against 10-man Palace at the weekend but won’t be involved in United’s squad to face Leverkusen tomorrow. There’s plenty of logic and common sense behind that decision, not that you’d know if you logged into social media networks…
Man United submitted both UEFA Champions League and UEFA Youth League squads just under two weeks ago. In previous years, the most talented youth players may have been named in the former, on the infamous B-List – a secondary list that rewards clubs for wanting to include their own academy players by letting them be included on top of the 25 man strong A-List squad. The rules state that to feature on the B-List a player must have been born on or after 1st January 1992 and have to be have been eligible to play for the club for an unbroken two year period since turning 15.
The great thing about the B-List is that it’s flexible, players can be added to it up to 24 hours before a Champions League fixture. So if a team wins their group with a game to spare and therefore wants to include some kids in the final group match, they can register them on the B-List and add them to the squad. This season United have listed Sam Johnstone, Tom Thorpe, Jesse Lingard, Larnell Cole and William Keane on the B-List. There are a couple of notable exclusions: Michael Keane and Adnan Januzaj – two kids who were both involved in pre-season on tour. Michael’s exclusion but Thorpe’s inclusion suggests a loan is likely to follow for him whilst for Januzaj less guess-work is required.
This season, UEFA have introduced their version of the successful NextGen Series. All Champions League sides will submit an U19 team into a competition that will run in parallel to the main competition with the same groups, the UEFA Youth League. As such, United have submitted an U19 squad, to be managed by Nicky Butt.
United are to take this competition seriously – there are some excellent youth sides involved and it’ll be a great opportunity for our kids to test where they’re up to. Importantly, getting used to winning is important at youth level and so no competition is taking lightly. As such, Adnan Januzaj, the undoubted star of that age group at the club, is included in the U19 squad. He’ll have a chance to be the focal point of a good team and make his own mark on the European stage having already done so domestically.
Some fans are seemingly miffed as to why he’s in that squad rather than the main Champions League squad. To me there’s a very simple and logical answer. United want him to get minutes and play games – the UEFA Youth League games take place on the same day as the first team games, just a few hours earlier. No player will be physically ready to play for the first team straight after playing for an U19 side and so for now, he’ll be with our U19s rather than the first team. You may be quick to point out that he’s already showing signs that he may be ready for more first team minutes but to go from a cameo against a depleted Crystal Palace to taking on good European sides is a big step up.
More to the point, David Moyes is unlikely to take any risks in the opening Champions League games. Like he did against Chelsea and Liverpool in the league, he’ll turn to experienced first team players to fill spots in the squad. As talented as Januzaj may be and as positive as his naivety may be, this isn’t the competition to mess around in and gamble. For Januzaj to even make the bench, a whole host of first team players would need to be either injured or suspended and so it’s better he plays and hopefully shines with the U19s in their competition for now. Should United win their group with games to spare, there’s nothing to suggest Januzaj won’t then get registered and play a part in any dead rubber games.
Hype is a dangerous thing. For a lot of fans, pre-season would have been the first team they’d truly seen Januzaj. There seems to be a mad desire from fans to rush prospects not only into the first team squad but into the starting line up well before they’re ready. United, as history suggests, will rewards players who are ready but by no means will rush a player through the stages. Those who cite the Pogba scenario must also remember that it was a one-off, it hadn’t happened to United before and was a lot to do with the personality of the player and agent involved. There is little to suggest it will happen again, particularly with Januzaj.
Views of a player get warped very quickly. Some fans are already suggesting that Januzaj is better than Valencia or Young which simply isn’t true. He may well go on to be a better player than them but right now he’s got a long way still to go. It’s worth remembering that the clamour to involve Januzaj was two weeks ago a clamour to involve Kagawa and a week before that a clamour to involve Zaha. He’s the flavour of the month right now and there are still lots of players ahead of him. If you’re worried that he’s not in the Champions League squad, don’t be – there’s a logical reason behind his non-inclusion and he will get his chances over the course of the coming seasons.
NB: he still has to be registered on the B-List to play in the CL, if you think he doesn’t because of his age you are unfortunately incorrect. If you want to read the rules regarding registration, they’re here (p.27-30).