United Briefing: Beware the former Red
Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has warned the Reds to look out for Real Sociedad winger Adnan Januzaj, when we face the Basque club in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Januzaj began his professional career at United, making 63 appearances and scoring five goals during a four-year spell at Old Trafford which concluded in 2017, when he moved to San Sebastian, where he has racked up a century of games for the La Liga club.
Although Scholes never shared a pitch with the Belgian, having retired three months before Adnan made his club debut, he remembers the attacker’s ability well and believes he has what it takes to come back and haunt the Reds, alongside David Silva, who has become the fulcrum of the side since joining from Manchester City last summer.
“Yeah, [Adnan] was a really talented kid,” Scholesy told this week’s MUTV Group Chat. “When I retired the first time, I was coaching him with [former Reserves’ manager] Warren Joyce actually, for six months.
“The talent no doubt was there. It’s still there, he’s doing really well at Sociedad. I think it’s been a good change for him.
“He showed glimpses when he first came into United’s first team, that he had the ability that we all knew he had. For some reason it just didn’t work out and he’s had to go elsewhere, but he’s a really talented player and somebody we’re really going to have to watch on Thursday, along with David Silva obviously.
“Adnan’s got great ability. He can go past people, he’s got a lovely left foot. He can score goals, create goals, so we’ll have to be careful with him.
“I’m glad he’s done well. He’s a good lad, who tries his best all the time, great attitude. I hope he does well at Sociedad, but not too well this Thursday.”
Januzaj has scored twice in 21 games for Imanol Alguacil’s side this season, helping La Real to pole position in La Liga when the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League was made in December.
Since then, the excellent form of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, plus a run of only three wins in 13 games, has resulted in the Basque outfit dropping to fifth in the table.
With this in mind and the fact Januzaj and co have to play their home leg ‘away’ at the Juventus Stadium in Turin due to COVID-19 restrictions in Spain, Scholes believes United should be favourites to win.
Indeed, the double European-Cup winner thinks Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are among the frontrunners for the competition as a whole, despite the presence of fellow Premier League clubs Arsenal, Leicester and Tottenham, plus European royalty in Ajax, Benfica and Milan.
“I don’t see much Spanish football these days but I know they [Real Sociedad] had a great start to the season,” our former no.18 continued.
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“They were top of the league for some time. I think the form has dropped off a little bit but in this competition I expect United to beat any of them.
“Going to Turin – it’s a great stadium, a great football pitch. I expect United to win the competition, as you would do, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Of course, Scholes has bittersweet recollections of the northern Italian city, with Juve’s former Stadio Delle Alpi playing host to the incredible Champions League semi-final comeback victory in 1999.
“Roy Keane! Or were you thinking about my yellow card?” Paul exclaimed when asked what he remembered most about that game.
“I just think about Roy Keane’s goal and coming back from 2-0 down. It was a great time. [It’s] a different stadium now of course but it was a great night.
“Obviously I was a little bit disappointed [to be booked and then suspended for the final] but no, we’ve got great memories of Turin.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
We’ll turn our full attention to Thursday’s tie, with an in-depth look at La Real - plus the early team news for both sides.
You’ll be able to watch Paul’s MUTV Group Chat in full, too. As well as discussing our European hopes, Scholesy also talks about Bruno Fernandes, United’s league form and reveals what he makes of Roy Keane’s recent appearance on a certain social media platform.
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?
We published this 15-minute video of all 50 of our Premier League strikes so far this season – if you want to impress your friends with some of the best stats behind our landmark, click here.
Away from the bread and butter of first-team football, Lee Grant is the latest Red to contribute to our UTD Unscripted series, while Academy graduate and former Premier League winner Danny Simpson appears on the latest episode of UTD Podcast – read our preview article now.
In terms of announcements, we confirmed the date and time of our Emirates FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City and a loan move for Under-23s midfielder and full Wales international Dylan Levitt.