Adnan Januzaj scored the final goal of the match against Barcelona on Saturday as Manchester United won 3-1. Januzaj was one of the youngsters that were subbed in around the 60 minute mark. Jesse Lingard also scored in the game, as many of the prospects showed that they are ready to fight for playing time this season.
United manager Louis van Gaal was very pleased with how the young players responded after being called out after the last game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Yes I was very happy with the reaction of the youngsters because they were more aggressive and that I always want,” said van Gaal. “They were defending more, going forwards and, okay, sometimes you make the wrong choices and you are always the loser, but that is also useful. But it was a team with the spirit. We created chances and we scored two goals with the youngsters so I am very happy.”
United switched out the whole 11 against Barcelona after a little over 60 minutes in the game on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. Among the players that were subbed in were Januzaj, 20, Lingard, 22, Andreas Pereira, 19, and Paddy McNair, 20.
Another youngster, Tyler Blackett combined with Lingard on the goal that meant 2-0 for United. Lingard spoke to MUTV and ManUtd.com about his goal.
“Andreas [Pereira] did well to get it in midfield,” said Lingard. “He’s played it out to Wilson and then Willo’s committed the defender. Tyler Blackett’s pulled it back and it was lucky that I was there, on the edge of the box, and I’ve stuck it home.”
Lingard scored a screamer against Sweden in the Under-21 European Championship for England, and he will look to keep the momentum going this upcoming season.
“I’ve wanted to add goals to my game since last season,” said Lingard. “I scored a couple of goals while I was on loan for Derby County [last season] and it’s good to get off the mark again now.”
Januzaj played very well as a striker when he came on in the second half, something that didn’t go unnoticed by van Gaal as he praised the young Belgian in the press conference after the game.
“I think that Adnan Januzaj was very good because he always gives an option for his midfielders and defenders. He scored a wonderful goal and I think that is always important,” said van Gaal. “He had to fight with two defenders and he did well. But it was more easy for him against the defence without [Gerard] Pique.”
Januzaj struggled last season after getting his breakthrough in 2013/2014 when he as an 18-year-old came in and scored twice against Sunderland in his first game from start. He ended up featuring in 27 league games that season, scoring four goals. Last season he only played in 18 league games for the club and failed to find the back of the net.
He spoke to ManUtd.com after the game about his goal.
“I am very happy to score my goal as it’s been a long time,” said Januzaj. “I know it’s a friendly but playing Barcelona is always a big game to play in as they are a very good team. I think everyone did well and we deserved to win the game.”
He also expanded on his new role as a striker.
“I’m enjoying the role up front,” said Januzaj. “It’s a new position but I really like because it gets me closer to the goal. I hope I can keep scoring more for the team.”
Seven out of the 11 players that finished the game against Barcelona has come up through the youth ranks at United, something that midfielder and vice-captain Michael Carrick was pleased to see as he spoke to ManUtd.com.
“Developing young players is what this club is about and it’s what it should be about,” said Carrick. “Of course we want the best players from around the world because we want to be the best team, but you want the balance of bringing players through too. We’ve got a great record of doing that over the years and we’re doing that again, which is great to see.”
James Wilson is another young players that could see some significant playing time this upcoming season. The 19-year-old striker represented the Red Devils on 17 occasions in all competitions, scoring two goals.
United has a strong tradition of bringing young players up from the youth teams, and that is best represented by the “Class of 1992” that included players like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers.
Januzaj might be in the best position right now to get some starts, but several youngster will get the chance to come off the bench and play a part as United try to improve on last year’s fourth place finish as well as trying to qualify for the Champions League.