The boss introduced the Belgium international for Darren Fletcher in the 63rd minute as one of two deep-lying midfielders in his 3-5-2 formation. While the substitution did not yield a match-winning goal, it showcased the 19-year-old’s willingness to play out of position for the team.
“It is not usual that we have four injuries in midfield,” van Gaal told reporters. “Every club that has that, has a problem. That is why I played Januzaj in midfield because as a coach I want to win. I have said that we need creative passing and I thought Januzaj could provide that. That is the reason.”
When pressed further on the subject, van Gaal explained how Januzaj’s history of playing in central midfield as a young player gave him the edge over his fellow substitute Shinji Kagawa.
“Kagawa, I have tried to play him in that positon in the US and he could not fulfil my wishes and my philosophy,” the boss said. “We have spoken about that and he is more of a 10. Mata was playing at 10 and I thought I had to change the other players, which is why I chose to bring on Januzaj.
“It is because of creation. Kagawa can also create, but I asked Adnan to play there because of the lack of midfielders. When he played in Belgium, he played in midfield so I asked if he could do it for us. I said to him 'you are on the bench as a midfielder' because I want him to focus.