A thoughtful, insightful interviewee, Robin van Persie sifts his words carefully before answering a question. So, when the experienced Dutchman fielded a query about 18-year-old prodigy Adnan Januzaj after last month's victory over Stoke City, his response was stirring.
"Over the years I've seen so many young players," he began, then paused to sense check his next statement before continuing: "and I can honestly say that of all the young players I've seen he is right up there in the top one or two."
Having emerged from Feyenoord's youth setup and overseen repeated crops of burgeoning youngsters at Arsenal's celebrated Academy, van Persie has seen raw talent at its rarest. His conclusion is shared by almost anybody who has seen Januzaj in action: the boy is indeed a bit special. A pristinely groomed, slight young man with a tongue-twisting name and a blood-twisting nature, Adnan needed just a handful of senior outings this season to turn the faintest local murmurings about a potential star into a worldwide buzz around the poster boy of David Moyes' new Old Trafford regime.
Graceful, poised and bold, Januzaj has leapt onto the stage and straight into the spotlight in the early scenes of the next act in United's history. Prior to this season, he made just 39 appearances and scored three goals across the Reds' Under-18s and Under-21s teams after his 2011 arrival. His ascent is on present merit rather than any sizeable run-up.
It is the teenager's promise which has yielded a new, five-year contract, signed with much fanfare and celebration last month, in exactly the same manner that his initial recruitment was seen as a tremendous boon within United's Academy. Then, as recently, there was widespread interest in ensnaring a special talent.
The Reds' Belgian-based scout Alex Verveckken contacted the club in August 2010, after witnessing Januzaj in action for Anderlecht in a youth tournament at KV Mechelen in Belgium. "After that, most of Brian McClair's staff travelled to Belgium over the next few weeks to watch Adnan play," recalls the club's regional and European recruitment officer, Geoff Watson.
"It meant everybody pulling together. All of us were impressed with what we saw, and we recommended that the Academy should try to sign him as soon as possible. The general opinion from the Academy was that Adnan was a player with very high