David Moyes last night revealed that the Football Association had already contacted Manchester United to try to claim Adnan Januzaj for England, even before the teenager’s sensational full debut yesterday which drew comparisons with Wayne Rooney from the United manager.
Januzaj, 18, scored both goals on his first Premier League start as he helped overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit at Sunderland and ease the pressure on Moyes and United after an indifferent start to the campaign.
Januzaj, who joined United from Anderlecht in 2011, when he was 16, has yet to decide which country he wants to represent. He was born in Belgium to Kosovan-Albanian parents.
“I think there is some way in which he could qualify for England,” Moyes confirmed. “I think it’s something to do with residency. It’s something like that [after living in England for five years].
“I think he has a choice of countries to play for. Obviously he has been called up by Belgium several times and chose not to at the moment. He’s wanted by Albania, Croatia and a few others. He can play for several countries and England as well.”
Asked whether the Football Association had already contacted United, Moyes said: “Yes, they have.”
Meanwhile, Gary Lineker, the presenter of the BBC Match of the Day programme, took to the social network site Twitter to state that Roy Hodgson, a guest on last night’s show, had said that Januzaj would be eligible to play for England “from 2015”.
However, according to Fifa statutes, introduced in May 2008, that would not appear to be the case, with the rules stating a player would be eligible if “he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association”.
Hodgson appeared to confirm that was the case. “Down the line in five years’ time he could play for England if he becomes nationalised or a home-grown product. That discussion will have to be seriously debated before we start nationalising players.
“There’s no doubt he’s a real talent and we have our eyes on him but a lot will have to be discussed first.”
That would appear to mean that the FA would have to wait until February 2018 to claim Januzaj and it is unlikely that the player would wait that long unless there was another way around the rules that could be explored.
Moyes’s relief at the victory led to him comparing the winger to Rooney, to whom he handed a debut as a 16-year-old at Everton, and Ross Barkley. “I remember giving Wayne his debut and Ross Barkley his debut and Adnan is certainly that quality. He is top, top quality,” Moyes said.
Moyes said the match-winning debut was comparable to any made by previous United greats. “Even of the great players in the past, the players who have come into the Manchester United team,” he said. “But we will do everything to keep his feet on the ground. He’s a very humble boy. But we know we have a really exciting talent.”
A complication is that Januzaj is out of contract at the end of this season with many leading clubs circling. But Moyes said he was confident he would stay.