It’s been five months this month since Adnan Januzaj last came out on the field at Old Trafford, coming in as a replacement for Marcus Rashford who stole the show with his first Premier League goals against Arsenal.
Rashford’s career at Manchester United has just begun. Unfortunately for Januzaj, his time at the club was coming to an early end.
He was once a rising star and scored twice in his Premier League start for United in a win in Sunderland in October 2013.
Adnan Januzaj faces the old club Manchester United on Thursday in the 32nd league of the European League
Disappointed with life under Louis van Gaal, Januzaj returned from a difficult loan at Borussia Dortmund under an equally tough manager in Thomas Tuchel and knew there was no future in Manchester.
Older and wiser for his experience at 26, Real Sociedad winger can think about all this as he prepares for his first match against United in the fourth Europa League knockout match on neutral ground in Turin before returning to Old Trafford for next week’s second leg .
So does he have a purpose to prove?
“No, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” Januzaj says at Sociedad’s training ground south of San Sebastian.
‘I know my qualities, I know who I am. I don’t have to show United or anyone that I’m a good player. I just have to believe in myself.
The Real Sociedad winger can think about all this as he prepares for his first meeting with United
He believes he would be better off playing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than Van Gaal
Are you sorry? I could say maybe a little regret. Because I know I had the ability to show people how good I am. I’m sorry about that. ‘
Januzaj is happy in Spain. He lives in an apartment on the beach and is a regular member of the team that is currently fifth in La Liga. Most of all he feels the love he missed earlier in his career.
‘When I played my first season at United and went through the academy, people were showing me love. The coaches allowed me to enjoy football, ‘he says.
‘Then it’s obvious when a coach (Van Gaal) comes who doesn’t show you love, it becomes harder to prove yourself and be happy.
‘When Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to us, he gave us a little hope. “Do your best, your time will come.”
Januzaj’s breakthrough came under the leadership of David Moyes, who rewarded him with minutes throughout the season
‘Even if you did badly, Van Gaal would yell at you. For young players who are not good, you have to teach them. The coach is like a teacher, that’s what I missed the most.
‘It wasn’t just for me, but for the other young players as well. And for Memphis (Depay) he’s a great player and you see he makes a difference with Lyon in France.
‘As young players we had to sit there and wait for the opportunity to play for 10 or 15 minutes. Okay, we can see our quality, but you can’t show how good you are. ‘
Januzaj is still in contact with Ferguson, someone he calls the “father of football,” and he kept the house in Halle, as well as some downtown apartments.
A close friend of Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw, he accepts that he would be better off playing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than Van Gaal, who has publicly criticized his work ethic in training.
‘You see Ole is really nice and loves the players from the academy. For young players like Marcus they are very lucky to have such a coach.
‘When you’re a young boy and you’re criticized for things you’ve never done – the coach’s excuse was that I didn’t train well – I couldn’t understand. You play like you’re training. If I did well in games, I don’t think I was that bad in training.
Januzaj fought under the leadership of Van Gaal, who publicly criticized his work ethic in training
‘People had a bad image of me and that’s the only thing I regret is that I had a lot of people questioning their mentality.
‘Van Gaal told me at the last minute that I could go on loan and I was transferred to Germany.
‘Maybe I left too early, but I just wanted to play football. I didn’t want to sit on the bench for six or seven games in a row. ‘
Current Chelsea boss Tuchel has also reconsidered Januzaj’s stance following unproductive loans in Dortmund.
“A coach should always protect you as a player, especially when they know you are a player who can change for them,” says Januzaj. ‘We should be a little cooler because of things like that.
‘People were rude to me because I was a boy with a lot of quality. It was hard for me to know what they were doing to me. I am now 26 years old and I know it will never happen again in my career. ‘
After the relegation season in Sunderland – ‘I just wanted to get time to play, even though it wasn’t a team that matched my abilities’ – the Belgian international has made a permanent transfer from United to Sociedad for £ 9 million in 2017 and feels like at home in Spain.
Januzaj believes he would be better off playing under Solskjaer than Van Gaal
‘I was a little scared of how I would fit in with the way of life, but today I’m really cold and happy here,’ he says.
‘I’ve learned a lot in terms of how to behave and stay calm. I’ve been working on it a lot the last few years. Someone who works at this club helped me to be more mentally relaxed and let my football flow.
‘Now people talk completely differently about me. I have never had a problem with any coach, I always work hard and I have two World Cups in me.
‘I’ll tell you the truth, from my first year at United until today I’m a completely different player. I have changed a lot in terms of quality, self-confidence and mentality. I enjoy my football.
‘If you don’t enjoy it somewhere, you have to enjoy it somewhere else. Life does not end. ‘
Januzaj is still in contact with Sir Alex Ferguson, someone he calls the “father of football”