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Man U's Januzaj has uncanny similarity to Ronaldo, other greats of the game

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Adnan Januzaj, left, scores a goal past Sunderland's John O'Shea. (AP)

There are countless cautionary tales to remind Adnan Januzaj that a spectacular start to an English Premier League career does not guarantee any kind of future success.

But as Manchester United's latest exciting prospect continues to bask in the glow of his remarkable first PL start last weekend, there is at least one striking coincidence that seems to have him earmarked for greatness rather than one-hit wonder status.

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Once Januzaj scored twice at Sunderland on Saturday to spearhead United's comeback from a goal down to 2-1 victors, a scramble began to discover information on the previously unheralded 18-year-old from Belgium.

And it didn't take long for optimistic United fans to notice that the youngster's birthday, February 5, puts him in elite company. For a start, it is a date shared with Cristiano Ronaldo, whose own United debut, aged 18 in 2003, provoked perhaps even more attention and speculation as to his future upside.

With Ronaldo, now at Real Madrid, long since established as one of the two best players in the world, that one didn't work out too badly. Then there is Neymar, the Brazilian sensation born Feb. 5 who many believe will assume the mantle of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and become a giant of the game and upon whom all eyes will be at next year's World Cup in his homeland.

Other celebrity members of soccer's February 5 club include two legends, Romanian superstar Gheorghe Hagi, who starred in the 1994 World Cup in the United States, and 1960s Italian great Cesare Maldini.

With such names being thrown about it would be easy for all the fuss to get to a young man's head, and Januzaj would do well to consider that not every United prodigy touted for greatness worked out.

Consider the example of Terry Cooke, a talented right winger who shined on debut in 1994, but went on to play only a handful more games for the club, with his position taken by some guy named David Beckham.

Cooke bounced his way down the English leagues, landed in Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids, then ended his career with spells in Australia and Azerbaijan.

Indications are that United doesn't expect that fate to befall Januzaj, with head coach David Moyes labeling him "special" and the club already preparing a lucrative new multi-year contract that could take his earnings above $4 million annually.

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"Young lads can come in and change," said United midfielder Michael Carrick. "Their life can change overnight and the expectations and pressures change. There are more responsibilities. But he is at the right place and he has a good attitude. He is going to stay on the right lines."

There is one school of thought that believes Moyes may decide to use Januzaj sparingly this season, allowing him to develop his game out of the spotlight. However, the club is also in need of a creative spark; before the Belgian masterminded Saturday's comeback, they were down in 12th in the PL table.

More likely is that Moyes will continue to throw him in the deep end and see just what he is capable of. That is the best way to discover if United's freshest prince truly does have a glittering future.

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