Adnan Januzaj has explained how he has improved as a player during his loan spell at Sunderland this season, pointing towards the positive effect of receiving criticism and high managerial demands.
The Belgian, who erupted on the global scene with a sensational brace at the Stadium of Light in October 2013, was sent out to the Black Cats on a season-long loan deal back in August.
He has made 22 appearances in all competitions under David Moyes this season, drawing mixed reviews from Sunderland supporters.
And Januzaj, speaking earlier this week, noted that the time in Wearside has helped harden his approach to his own game and life at the top.
“Obviously this manager thinks that because he knows what I can do. I don’t mind when a manager tries to push me,” he said.
“He is being hard on me and I have to take it and try to play some big games.
“Criticism makes you stronger. You can criticise me how you want, the first thing that I think about is my own game when I go out onto the pitch.”
Jose Mourinho, upon arriving in June, clearly decided that Januzaj – whilst unavoidably talented – needed to toughen up, both mentally and physically. The 22-year-old has always been capable of displaying mesmerising moments of brilliance on the ball but, amongst the hysteria of his ascension to the first team, never managed to cultivate the fortitude needed when it comes to producing powerful performances on a regular basis.
His time at Sunderland, then, can be seen as an important maturing stage in his career. Life at the bottom with Moyes is far from glamorous, but supporters will hope to see the youngster come out from the other side as a stronger character in response.