This past weekend felt like a pivotal weekend for many reasons, but the Adnan Januzaj debut creates the most perplexing and worrying issue of all.
He scored two great goals on his full debut. During the very same weekend Ravel Morrison scored a wonder goal his manager labelled ‘genius’ and Paul Pogba scores the winner in the Turin derby, amid claims they should build their entire team around him.
I wrote this article on this very blog over two years ago. My excitement palpable. Only for my excitement to wither and die in the worst way of all. Individual cases are always incomparable, and whilst Morrison’s behaviour was the main issue in his case, the Pogba precedent is alltogether more concerning. Even if recent news says otherwise, we all know Pogba’s agent was hawking him around to the highest bidder. The details of each case can be read into in far greater detail in this brilliant article, but if you’re on the board of a successful business its your job to notice patterns. And regardless of cases, this cant become a pattern for Manchester United.
So where do we begin? What are we to believe? That there’s a sensible wage structure for youngsters at United? Should that always apply? That nobody has the right to demand a first team place, let alone a graduate? That we simply don’t have the money in the Glazer bleeding era? That we’re not the glamorous pull we once were? That with Ferguson gone will the grand youth tradition continue? All could be argued. All could be potentially valid.
Lets remember something very important. We rarely buy superstars. We create them. Its our way. I dont really care that we miss out on 30m+ signings because of an extra million or two, as that always seems extraneous as to why we love United. I ignore the legions of Twitter “fans” screaming and bemoaning epic transfer farces we had to endure this summer. I’d rather us give the kids a chance, always. There’s no greater feeling than seeing guys like Danny Welbeck make it as a first team regular. People who understand the importance of that are the real fans. Its what we’re built upon. This brings us back to the matter at hand. We simply have to concentrate on keeping the wonder kids. I dont care what it takes.
Financial arguments make no sense. Why not give Pogba 40k a week? Its a special case. We just spent 30m on Fellaini. 30m. Think about that. That’s Pogba’s position. How many weeks of 40k wages add up to 30m ? (750 weeks….14 years?!…. and weve not added Fellaini’s own salary to this argument)
Our academy set-up, Barca apart, is peerless. The production line sensational. What’s the point in having a system and resource as good as this if you’re going to start letting the best walk? Is that not the most important thing to focus on as a United fan? We can bemoan Glazer debt baggage and Woodward’s farcical summer but the actual finances needed to straighten this area are minimal in comparison to alledged transfer budgets let alone turnover.
Which brings me to Adnan. Lovely, glorious, insanely talented Adnan. I can’t bear it already. It’s likely he won’t stay and we all know it.
All the warning signs are there. Who else was amazed at his reaction against Sunderland. I accept that some of these wonderkids ooze a supreme arrogance, but he looked distracted and far from delighted. He looked blank. His reaction at the final whistle was just plain odd. I noticed it, as did countless others. Do we read anything into that?
And then there’s Dirk De Vriese, the agent. Exactly the kind of guy we don’t want in this situation. It pains me that we even know his name. It pains me that a Google search reveals a hundred quotes. This just doesnt bode well does it? “I’m not going to say which teams are interested in him, but I can tell you that there is interest from several European clubs,” We can think all we like about loyalty, tradition and any other romantic illusion. But they are merely illusions to agents. He will chase the biggest paycheck. Fact. Sure, Adnan will have a say that’s not directly linked to money, but the agent’s focus is financial. Always. And let’s remember how naive we all were at that age. Agents and parents have tremendous power over teenagers.
I hope this doesnt come across as a clickbait scaremongery story. I dont want it to be. But its becoming a symptom of a problem, and it’s very important. Its really vitally important. Its more important than transfer strategy for us. This is what we do at United. We mould, develop and create superstars. Letting it happen once is ok, twice for differing reasons acceptable, three times? Not acceptable. Not when its something that can be fixed without huge financial pain. Its the spine and the future of the club.
I know Barcelona have the same problem. We did exactly the same thing to them with Pique. Arsenal with Fabregas. Bayern with Alcantara. It happens. But Adnan knows he has the playing time now, which those other examples didnt, so now its down to cash. I think the one massive thing in our favour now is Woodward’s dreadful summer. Can he be seen to let this happen too? Woodward’s stock couldn’t be lower right now, and ironically i’m praying that that dreadful summer of business just might be the best thing that’s happened to us in years.