Manchester United are facing a battle similar to the one which saw them lose Paul Pogba to Juventus, as they attempt to persuade their prodigious new talent Adnan Januzaj to commit himself to the club beyond the end of the season.
Manager David Moyes and his chief executive Ed Woodward must come up with a financial package which is to the satisfaction of the player’s father – a key influence in negotiations – as well as Januzaj himself. That may be challenging – despite the United manager’s claim after the Belgian-Kosovan scored two priceless goals to stave off another calamitous defeat for United at Sunderland that “all boys want to play for Manchester United.” Moyes has already said that “influences” close to Januzaj have already complicated attempts to extend his contract. Juventus are understood to have been circling again, accelerating attempts to attract another United prospect.
Moyes is also facing the headache of £27.5m acquisition Marouane Fellaini likely needing surgery on his wrist.
There is no prospect of Januzaj playing for England until 2018 at the earliest, despite Roy Hodgson stating on Saturday night’s Match of the Day that the Football Association have been exploring the idea. Articles 15 to 18 of Fifa’s regulations state that a player must have lived in a nation for at least five years, “after reaching the age of 18” to play for it. Brussels-born Januzaj only turned 18 on February and his decision not to play for Belgium stems from the influence of his Kosova-Albanian father. Fifa’s non-recognition of Kosovo, who can only play friendly fixtures, currently leaves Albania as Januzaj’s only option if he wishes to play competitive football for his influential father’s native country.
With Januzaj’s goals in the 2-1 win at Sunderland serving to strengthen his bargaining position, United must now decide whether to agree to a size of contract which would remove potential challengers for his signature from the picture. The player’s agent, Dirk De Vriese, told Voetbal Niews five days ago that Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure had caused “a break in the negotiations” – though it was Ferguson who had most distaste for Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, during attempts to persuade the French teenager to stay.
The benefits to Raiola of Pogba’s move to Juventus a made the task of keeping him more complex than has generally been appreciated, though United may have to take financial pain on this occasion if they are to keep Januzaj. United hope that Moyes’ clear vote of faith in Januzaj, illustrated by his determination to give him first team football, will help their case. Ferguson gave Pogba only three substitutes’ appearances in the Premier League and a further three in the League Cup. United said yesterday that they did not discuss contract negotiations.
Fellaini seems to have suffered ligament damage to his wrist and will see a hand specialist in Manchester today before leaving for his native Belgium. The 25-year-old is likely to be out for several weeks and will need to play with a brace on the wrist when he returns.