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Sunderland 1 Manchester United 2 match report: Adnan Januzaj is United’s muscles from Brussels

Belgian sensation strikes twice to dig Moyes out of a hole after Gardner takes full advantage of chaotic defending to give struggling Sunderland a shock early lead

The dissection of the Fifa rulebook was beginning. That should give an insight into the display from Adnan Januzaj that gave Manchester United victory and unravel the complexity surrounding the number of clubs and countries chasing the 18-year-old.

Roy Hodgson admitted in the Match of the Day studio that the player can play for England and that the Football Association are already well down the road to making that happen. His assertion suggested 2015 was possible. Fifa rules state that a player must have lived in a country for five years from his 18th birthday to claim residency. European law may suggest five years from his arrival in 2011. The picture seemed complicated, but for Januzaj, it is nothing new. He has turned down Belgium, knocking back international fixtures where he has been included in their squad. Albania and Croatia are in the frame; and now here comes England.

At club level, there is interest from Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea, and Januzaj's contract expires at the end of this season. There are ways to kick on negotiations but none is better than smashing in two superb goals when your team trails and your manager, new to one of the biggest clubs in the world, has just lost the previous two games.

"He is a special player," Moyes said. "I would have started with him three or four weeks ago but for different reasons I didn't get it to go the way I wanted it to go. He has been that good.

"I gave Wayne Rooney his debut at 16 and Ross Barkley his debut at 16. Adnan is up there with those boys. He is older but he is still very young for a Premier League player. I would have to say that from the boy's performance, not just his goals, his passing, his control, his movement, he is a very good player.

"We will do everything we possibly can to keep his feet on the ground. We played him in the reserves last week. He is a very humble boy. He works hard. We know we have got a really exciting talent.

"I think all young boys want to play for Manchester United. I don't know a better place for them to have work, coaching, a club that promotes young players and hopefully a manager who promotes young players. If I was a young boy, or a dad, I would be saying you have a chance of being in the team because they push you forward. It is part of my remit."

He added: "The FA have made their interest in him known. I think there is some way he could qualify for England, yes. I don't know how that is. I think it is residency. It is something like after five years.

"I think he has a choice of three or four countries he can play for. He has been called up by Belgium and chose not to [play for them]. He is wanted by Albania and Croatia and a few others as well as England." Such interest seems entirely reasonable after this display.

United trailed to a calamitous first-half goal after just five minutes, when mistakes from Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic teed up Craig Gardner to drive past David de Gea. The Spanish goalkeeper, however, denied Emanuele Giaccherini with a superb save just past the half-hour mark. That allowed Januzaj the chance to shine. And he took it.

There had already been a needless booking for diving when the winger jinked his way into the Sunderland penalty area. That was in the 48th minute. By the 55th minute it was a distant memory. At that point he played a wide ball to Patrice Evra and took the return pass in his stride to hit a superb right-footed finish past Keiren Westwood.

By the 61st minute, the seal of quality was complete. Nani crossed from the right with the outside of his right foot, John O'Shea headed only to the corner of the box and there followed a masterclass in volleying as Januzaj cracked a left-footed shot into the opposite bottom corner of Westwood's goal. Sublime moments.

"These are the fine margins," Kevin Ball, the caretaker Sunderland manager, said. "There is a bit of disappointment having done so well in the first half. Coming into half-time we knew it would be difficult and we would have to dig deep. We have looked at the two goals and we think they could have been prevented with communication."

That was a harsh viewpoint, but then the future of Ball, like Sunderland, remains clouded in uncertainty. He has heard nothing about whether the club's owner, Ellis Short, has any further plans for him at management level.

"We have worked very hard," Ball added. "The players are getting fitter all the time. I was delighted with them in the first half and I made sure I told them.

"Yes, I have moved the team forward. There are standards I have spoken to them about. I like to train hard but I have no idea if the job is mine. Ellis came down before the game to wish us good luck. I have not spoken to him since."

His opposite number Moyes faces a different form of uncertainty which this victory went some way to alleviating, and a differing perspective on the future. Into his calculation comes the coveted Januzaj.


Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Westwood; Celustka, Roberge, O’Shea, Colback; Gardner (Larsson, 56), Cattermole; Giaccherini, Ki (Wickham, 74), Johnson 7 (Ji, 64); Altidore.

Manchester United (4-4-2): De Gea; Rafael (Smalling, 86), Jones, Vidic, Evra; Nani (Welbeck, 77), Carrick, Cleverley, Januzaj (Valencia, 77); Rooney, Van Persie.

Referee: Chris Foy.

Man of the match: Januzaj (Manchester United)

Match rating: 6/10