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Jerry St. Juste: Why Man Utd scouts watching the 'Dutch Varane'

So, if Anthony Martial is the striker Louis van Gaal signed for Ryan Giggs, then is Jerry St. Juste the defender Manchester United's manager wants for his successor?

The Heerenveen centre-half, having only made his first team breakthrough this year, has been dubbed the 'Dutch Varane' and is now being watched regularly by United scouts - on orders of Van Gaal.

Taking advantage of his connections with the KNVB, Van Gaal has been tipped off about St. Juste and is now having the 18 year-old scouted ahead of a potential move - similar to their covert swoop for Martial four weeks ago.

The money won't be the same, but having secured St. Juste to a new deal in April, Heerenveen are in a strong bargaining position.

Hans Vonk, the Eredivisie club's football manager, was proud to have tied St. Juste to a three-year contract, though accepted Heerenveen would only be a stepping stone to much bigger things.

"Jerry is an example of our coaching. A boy who has worked his way through all our youth teams and made the step to the firsts. Thus we see that love he has for the club," a delighted Vonk said at the time.

But he conceded St. Juste's long-term future is sure to lie away from Heerenveen, citing former youth teammate Daley Sinkgraven, now of Ajax, as an example.

"Jerry has deliberately opted for a longer stay at Heerenveen to develop further.

"But that's no guarantee that he'll stay three years. Sometimes the development is so rapid that a departure is inevitable, just look at Daley..."

St. Juste's deal includes the option for a further two years, but Heerenveen officials expect - if his development continues - for him to be long gone by then. Even before the United interest broke, the board already had its eyes on a future multi-million euro transfer with coaching staff amazed by the results of St. Juste's physical tests.

While having his name mentioned with Van Gaal and Manchester United, St. Juste insists he's not one to let sudden fame go to his head. Along with the United recognition, the teen has also been likened to Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, but knows all the positive press can quickly turn.

"I have no reason to get full of myself," says St. Juste. "I'm not paying attention to the media coverage. Why should I?

"You have to live the moment. Now it's good, but it could be different in a few months."

By his own admission, St. Juste's "rise has been rapid", "The step from A1 to the first team is huge. There's a huge difference when you're playing against Luke de Jong or Memphis Depay. You can't relax for a moment. One slip and you're punished."

But such slips have so far been a rarity for St. Juste, though he accepts there's much in his game to be improved.

"With my football, technically, I must be even tighter in my control and passing and at a physical level I want work on getting additional strength. I want to be like the 'beast', (teammate) Kenneth Otigba."

A pure, natural athlete, St. Juste's has won praise for his calmness on the ball and distribution. It's a cliche, but he does play like someone well beyond his 18 years. However, the wide-eyed enthusiasm of what he's achieving remains close to the surface. This was never more evident than when speaking with his management company's website after last season's senior debut:

"I love it. I love it. I love it!!! This is what you work towards from the youth team! To play at the stadium with that great crowd. I had dreamed of my debut a few times, only that unfortunately does not count! What is counted, are those wonderful minutes on the field!

"The coach had already changed twice and there was a chance that I might be the third! I did not expect it, but you hope for it very much. And then came the moment that the coach called me, goose bumps broke over my body! And the only thing I was thinking then; enjoy it! And I did!! And now I must continue. I'm not there yet. This is just the beginning. I have to keep working hard and hopefully I can then enjoy more minutes! I am very grateful to the coach for this opportunity! I also thank my family and Forza for supporting me. I want to make the most of the opportunities that come my way."

St. Juste missed last summer's U19 Euros with Holland due to a "slight groin injury", but he has no regrets, despite the Oranje reaching the final.

"Ultimately, I had a slight groin injury. But I made the right choice.

"I didn't want to miss a minute of preseason with Heerenveen. The club also was happy. I think it was the right decision, I've been a starter since the beginning of the season.

"I do feel I have the coach's confidence."

Indeed, Heerenveen coach Dwight Lodeweges has never wavered in his backing of St. Juste.

"We're talking about a very talented, young player," he said upon handing St. Juste his first team debut last season.

"I'd have no problem calling him in when the opportunity arises."

Now, barely 15 games on, St. Juste has the world's biggest club posting a scout to track his progress. But, for now, he's happy to take it all in his stride.

"I do have my goals, but obviously can not do better than my best. Then we'll see how far I'll end up..."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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