U21s: Manchester United 4-0 Sunderland – Five main talking points

by Nicolas Berg

Manchester United’s Under-21s cruised past Sunderland 4-0 earlier this week thanks very much to an Adnan Januzaj hat-trick and a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Here are the main talking points to take from the game:

Januzaj is way too good for the Under-21s but is a loan move the right answer?

The Belgian starlet was the star of the show and was a constant threat for every one of the 83 minutes he was on the pitch. Employed up-front with Will Keane, he grabbed a hat-trick and left the Sunderland defenders wondering why on earth he is even is playing at this level.

Trickery, finishing and an ability to take on a man resulted in United having no problems winning the game and if it wasn’t for United letting the foot of the gas, this could’ve been a cricket score.

There is no doubt that Januzaj is too good for the Under-21s but as United now have the likes of Falcao, Di Maria, Mata et al, his chances for the first team look limited. The worst case scenario is Januzaj (and this applies for James Wilson too) being stuck between a rock and a hard place – too good for the Under-21s but not good enough (or prolific enough) for the first team.

Is it worth loaning them out and losing control over their daily routines rather than having them train with United’s first-team squad on a regular basis?

Anderson’s fitness is still a concern

46 completed games over seven seasons is an extremely poor return and his fitness is the main issue. Additionally, despite playing relatively well for the Under-21s on Monday night, even at that level he was unable to play until the final whistle as Joe Rothwell replaced him after 71 minutes. That’s obviously a major concern for a professional footballer. It’s the equivalent of an office employee who has to leave at 3pm every day instead of 5pm.

Most Under-21s sides are unable to exploit the weaknesses of a midfield diamond

United hit the ground running with a midfield diamond containing skipper Tom Thorpe in the holding midfield role with Anderson and Josh Harrop in the middle of the park and Andreas Pereira slightly in front of them.

That eased the task of playing a passing game, left the wide duties for Luke Shaw and Saidy Janko (who both did well, particularly Janko) and gave Sunderland a hard time when in possession in midfield as there were always several reds around to break down their play.

The weakness of this formation is obviously the lack of width and if the opposition employed a deep-lying playmaker to cross it wide frequently, it would mean a lot of off-the-ball running for the midfield four which eventually will drain their energy. Nonetheless, at this level, there aren’t many sides, if any, with a player of that quality, so the weakness is less likely to be exposed than on first team level.

What’s the case with Tom Thorpe?

Despite not being played in his regular spot at the heart of defence, Thorpe did brilliantly from his holding role in midfield. Most followers of the Under-21s rated him higher than Tyler Blackett going into this season, so why is he still playing at that level? He’s effectively in the same situation as Wilson and Januzaj.

Should Saidy Janko be Rafael’s cover?

If Rafael picks up an injury, who would you want to see as his replacement? There is a huge gap between the Under-21s and the Premier League but at least Janko has the confidence to take on a man, ability to find anything else than the nearest defender with a cross and has more trickery in his locker. He’s as strong as anyone and carries bags of pace as well, so maybe it is worth a go.