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 Posted by Musa Okwonga
Aug 14, 2014

Will Giggs' spectre loom over Januzaj?

Adnan Januzaj chats with Ryan Giggs -- the man from whom he has inherited the No. 11.

Adnan Januzaj has been handed the No. 11 shirt once worn by Ryan Giggs, and the question is whether it will weigh heavily upon his shoulders.

After all, one of his colleagues, Antonio Valencia, handed back the No. 7 shirt, whose previous bearers had included George Best, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo; the Ecuadorian winger-come-wing-back ultimately succumbed to the pressure of emulating those who had gone before.

- Jolly: Van Gaal chooses Young over youth
- Okwonga: Cautious optimism for Manchester United

Januzaj, as far as the logic goes, should be just fine. Few teenagers endured the scrutiny that he did last season -- a spotlight with which Giggs, during his breakthrough years, would have been familiar -- and his performances, before he began to tire late in the season, were often fantastic. If he can handle that, then a mere number won't be a problem.

Or will it?

Giggs wore the No. 11, but it was not a shirt, of itself, that was possessed of mythical qualities. If Manchester United is a kingdom, then the No. 7 shirt is the ruler's unofficial robe (or, in Eric Cantona's case, his official one).

The staff at the club must have felt that Januzaj could do without this coronation; given the Belgian's eye for goal, technical brilliance and impressive heading ability, the last thing they need are hasty comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Far better to let him develop in peace, since, for all Giggs' remarkable achievements, his number will not cast as great a shadow over Januzaj's career as Ronaldo's would have done.

This is because Giggs, above all, stood for endurance, for endless self-reinvention year after year, from thrilling left-winger to deep-lying playmaker; while Ronaldo will always stand for fierce acceleration, for the show-stoppingly spectacular. Of all the legends that Januzaj could follow, Giggs is by far the least foreboding.

ESPN FC's Stuart Holden and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard don't share the same view on Manchester United's title chances this season.

From one vantage point, giving Valencia the No. 7 shirt was actually quite smart, because he was a player who had no chance of ever becoming the emblem of the club. The problem was, after his outstanding season in 2011-12 when he was named both the club's and the fans' player of the year, Sir Alex Ferguson handed him the No. 7 in what seemed like an act of anointment.

It was almost as if Ferguson was saying that he was on a path to join the greats, and that's one of the reasons, apparently, why Valencia's form crumbled and he reverted to the No. 25.

Januzaj hopefully won't have to deal with such mid-career crises of confidence. (More importantly, he has his work cut out just getting into the team's starting eleven, since at the moment there is no natural place for him in this lineup).

There has been vague talk about Giggs' number being retired, but that is an idea that Giggs himself has rejected. At the very least, it will be a powerful incentive to whoever follows in his footsteps, and few will ever do so as nimbly as Januzaj.

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