Januzaj and Morrison steal Premier League headlines

Posted by Chris Atkins

The Scout's Notebook returns with its regular Monday review of standout performances from some of football's rising stars over the past weekend.

This week, our focus shifts to two Manchester United academy products, with very different footballing stories, in the Red Devils' current starlet Adnan Januzaj and West Ham's Ravel Morrison. Elsewhere, an emerging Brazilian full-back continues to show his potential and a one-time Argentine prodigy is on course to get himself back on track this season.

Januzaj enjoys dream first Premier League start

The headlines in England this weekend were stolen by an 18-year-old making his full debut, as Belgian midfielder Januzaj scored twice to help his Manchester United side to a 2-1 away victory at ailing Sunderland.

Having fallen behind within the opening five minutes of the encounter, United looked bereft of confidence and invention in the first half, with wingers Januzaj and Nani the two sole bright points in a highly disappointing showing. After the break, though, it was the younger of the duo who would come to the fore to seize control of the game for his side.

A goal off either foot in the space of six minutes as the game reached the hour mark was enough for the visitors, with the teenager displaying near immaculate technique on both strikes. Indeed, his second effort, a left-foot volley, was a strike that even illustrious teammate Robin van Persie would have been proud of.

His goals sent social media sites into a spin and even more so when Roy Hodgson revealed that England are monitoring his progress with a view to his inclusion once eligible in 2015. Januzaj, who could choose to represent Belgium, Albania, Turkey or even Kosovo, though, is not short of options.

His goals on this occasion were merely the defining moments of what was an excellent 77 minutes work from the youngster. He was generally good with his passing, he showed confidence in taking on opponents -- often successfully -- and, most importantly, he is delivering a timely boost to David Moyes and his beleaguered United side.

Finishing would not necessarily have ranked among Januzaj's best attributes based upon his showings at youth level, but the level of expectancy any time he looks for goal will have just risen considerably. Now in the final year of his contract, the United staff will be desperate to tie him down to a new deal with the elegant attacking midfielder having too much potential to simply allow to walk away.

Problem child Morrison showing signs of major progress

Unlike former youth team colleague Paul Pogba, West Ham midfielder Morrison should not be considered "one that got away" for Manchester United. The 20-year-old needed an exit from Old Trafford to move on in his personal life, while the Red Devils cannot be accused of not having tried to help the youngster overcome his off-pitch issues. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, though, has done a good job over the past 18-months of helping Morrison to begin making headlines for predominantly footballing reasons.

After a slow start at West Ham, he was loaned to Championship side Birmingham where Lee Clark also deserves great credit for his role in the youngster's development. Morrison was set to be sent back to the Hammers last October, but Clark handed him a further opportunity after what has been described as "make or break talks" at the time. The youngster responded and ultimately made the most of the loan move and resulting first-team football that he himself had taken a pay cut to obtain.

Now back at West Ham, Allardyce has handed Morrison opportunities to continue his development after a promising pre-season campaign. Four goals in all competitions from midfield this week earned a first call up to the England Under-21 squad, which was followed by a stunning goal this weekend.

An explosive presence in midfield, Morrison was always rated as on a par with Pogba in his time at United -- although very different players. While their careers have since headed in different directions, there are signs that they may once more cross paths again in coming years if the Englishman can continue his current development.

West Ham deserved to beat Tottenham this weekend and Morrison was a major player in that success. His goal, which saw him dribble powerfully from his own half before lofting the ball of Hugo Lloris was the game's outstanding moment of individual quality, but he more than held his own against Spurs' impressive and much vaunted midfield ranks.

Mayke: Cruzeiro's 'new Maicon' takes on starring role

Mayke is making waves in Brazil with eye-catching performances.
GettyImagesMayke is making waves in Brazil with eye-catching performances.

Brasileirao side Cruzeiro have had their fair share of talented right-backs in recent years, with Roma's Maicon and Inter Milan's Jonathan among those to have made their name at the Mineirao. A Raposa supporters, though, have spent the season hailing the rise of another potential star in the position -- 20-year-old Mayke.

It is to Maicon whom he has most often been compared this season and his predecessor has been impressed by what he has seen. "He is a tall full-back, who stands out for his speed and who has the power to get to the byline," the Champions League winner told Globo Esporte earlier this summer. "He is a straightforward full-back, who doesn't attempt too much. Football is about that -- simplicity. If he continues as he is, he will have a brilliant future."

On Sunday night, as Cruzeiro maintained their 11-point advantage at the top of the Brasileirao, the youngster was in fine fettle to aid in a 4-1 defeat of struggling Nautico. At both ends of the pitch, he was heavily involved throughout and his surging runs up the right flank proved a major issue for the hosts in the second period -- culminating in his late goal.

Mayke keeps the ball well when his side are in possession, has good quality in his final ball and has adapted impressively quickly to the demands of his first season at first-team level. Cruzeiro have built a tremendous side upon some big name players of the Brazilian domestic scene, but are also bringing through a spritely young crop of players in the likes of Mayke, Lucas Silva, Ricardo Goulart and Alisson. A bright future would appear to lie ahead in Belo Horizonte if they can build upon the considerable successes of 2013.

Juan Manuel Iturbe - Coming of age in Verona?

When 20-year-old Iturbe moved from Cerro Porteno to Porto in 2011, he was hailed as the future of Argentine football, having been the star player of his country's Under-20 side at the World Cup that summer. Indeed, Iturbe was already a full international -- albeit for Paraguay -- and looked set to flourish in Iberia with a side renowned for developing South American talents in recent years.

It hasn't quite gone to plan for the forward, though, and even a loan spell back to Argentina with River Plate last season failed to see the "Paraguayan Messi" truly show his full potential. It is in this context, then, that Iturbe's recent outings for Verona -- where he has scored twice in two starts over the last week -- are particularly encouraging.

A free-kick against Livorno last week was followed by another excellent left-foot effort this weekend, but it was the direct dribbling and inventiveness of Iturbe that really caught the eye. The Argentine looks determined to seize his opportunity in Italy this season and, if he can, it will not be long before he is once more discussed in the same glowing terms as just a couple of years ago.

For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter –@chris_elastico. More of his work profiling rising talents can also be found at TheElastico.com.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.