Man of the moment Adnan Januzaj is eligible to make his Champions League debut in Manchester United’s meeting with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford on Wednesday. The 18-year-old announced his potential to the wider world with two fine match-winning goals against Sunderland 10 days ago before creating a goal against Southampton at the weekend, but was initially left out of United’s Champions League squad for tactical reasons.
Clubs are allowed to name 25 players to their “A List,” while an unlimited number can be on the “B List” -- anyone born after January 1, 1992, who has been eligible to play for the club for two years. Moyes did not want to use up a spot on the former list when he would be available for the latter after two games. Now registered, his availability is a welcome boost for David Moyes.
“Januzaj is available," Moyes said, according to Manchester United’s official website. "He's an exciting young player and he's making good progress all the time. He's someone who, I'm sure, will play a big part in the future of Manchester United. He's an exceptional talent."
Januzaj has been a rare bright spark in what has been a difficult start to Moyes’ first season in charge at Old Trafford. An 89th minute equalizer from Southampton on Saturday leaves Manchester United with as many wins as defeats -- three -- from their opening eight Premier League matches. Things thus far have been more encouraging in Europe.
A 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen was perhaps their best attacking performance of the campaign to date, while a 1-1 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk, despite featuring the concession of a late equalizer, was a perfectly credible result. A win over Sociedad would put United in a strong position to make the last 16. Despite the Spanish side being pointless after two matches in the competition, Moyes is expecting a tough test.
“I watched Sociedad a lot last year and was really impressed by how well they did,” he said. “The loss of one or two players has made it harder for them this year and maybe the expectations have been much bigger. The games I've watched I've been impressed.”
The one major player that Sociedad lost over the summer was influential young midfielder Asier Illarramedi, who departed to Real Madrid for £25 million. The other loss was the manager who led them to a fine fourth place in La Liga last season, Philippe Montanier. He has been replaced by his former assistant Jagoba Arrasate, but things have not started well. The club had gone without a win since August before a morale-boosting 2-1 victory was secured at Valencia on Saturday.
One of Sociedad’s main hopes of getting a result at Old Trafford will be Carlos Vela. The former Arsenal forward has flourished in Spain and credits a man he is likely to come up against on Wednesday, one-time teammate Robin van Persie, with aiding his development.
“I learned a lot from him,” he said, according to The Independent. “For me, he’s the best striker in the world and it was a pleasure to be able to share moments in training with him. We used to sit next to each other in the dressing room and talk. I used to ask him about his movement, what was going through his mind when he did certain things, and he would explain. If I was missing something in my game he’d speak to me and give me advice and I’m grateful for that.”
Sociedad will again be without Esteban Granero, who suffered a serious injury in their loss to Shakhtar Donetsk on Matchday One. Central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic remain major doubts for United, while Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley both have a “chance” of making the game, according to Moyes.
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Jones, Evans, Evra
M: Carrick, Fellaini
Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj
Real Sociedad (probable)
D: C. Martinez, Gonzalez, I. Martinez, De la Bella
M: Pardo, Bergara
Vela, Prieto, Griezmann
Prediction: Real Sociedad looked like they would make a major impression on this year’s Champions League when they impressively brushed Lyon aside in the playoff round. But things have gone downhill since. Of course there has also been plenty of disappointment for Manchester United. While Moyes consistently talks about Januzaj still learning the game and being far from guaranteed a place in the side, the truth is he is one of the few United players right now who is capable of creating something. United remain vulnerable at the back and one-paced in midfield, but Sociedad don’t currently look to be capable of taking advantage.
Manchester United 2-1 Real Sociedad
Where to watch: The Champions League Group A match will kick off from Old Trafford at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.