In before the most important game of the season for Manchester United, in the Europa League final against Villarreal, I want to skip ahead to next season after the conclusion of this years Premier League.
You can usually tell when a player will stake a claim in the squad before the season begins, for example Mason Greenwood was tipped to have a part to play before the 2019/20 campaign and then showed everyone why that was a tip worth putting a punt on with his 19-goal campaign. One player that has recently shown that he could be tipped as a player to become a regular in Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s squad next season is 18-year-old winger Amad Diallo.
After joining up with the club in January after his summer move to the club was delayed due to work permit issues, the Ivory Coast international began his time in Manchester with a few appearances with Neil Wood’s Under-23s side in an attempt to get used to the wet-weathered life in Manchester, England. However, it became immediately clear that the signing from Atalanta was head and shoulders above his teammates and opposition in the PL2, with four goals and three assists in just three appearances — including a debut brace against Liverpool Under-23s.
Not only that, but the winger’s ability on the ball and calmness in possession showed that he wasn’t far away from a debut in the first-team, and that came soon afterwards, with a seven minute cameo against Real Sociedad.
It was in the quarter-final of the Europa League that he scored his first United goal, after coming off the bench for an injured Anthony Martial at half-time. A brilliant looping header following a lofted ball by Bruno Fernandes beat the goalkeeper and gave United a 1-0 lead that Milan squandered in the last minute of the match.Embed from Getty Images
It seemed pretty clear that the step up to the first-team wasn’t too big of a step for the 5-foot 7-inch teenager. However, Solskjær wasn’t going to risk giving him too much at once and Amad took a back-seat for the following months. Apart from short cameos in the cups against Leicester City and Granada CF, Amad made the bench for Premier League fixtures seven games in a row, yet he did not come on to make his league debut until 13 days ago.
Since then, though, Amad has played 167 minutes across three Premier League fixtures and he’s impressed in each of them – bagging an assist against The Foxes – and has shown that he can potentially have a more serious role in the side next season.
He’s one of those players
Amad is quick, but he doesn’t possess the blistering pace of his teammate Anthony Elanga, but instead one of the best and advanced qualities of all – spacial awareness.
Arsene Wenger, speaking in 2019, proclaimed about the importance of this attribute, as he told Mounir Zok at SiS Paris: “I have lost many top players because their head was on the ball and they were not seeing what was around them. Great players isolate from the ball, their head is like a radar.”
World class technical players such as David Silva and Juan Mata never had great pace or strength – similar to Amad – but they always managed to pick the ball up in space and then release it in an instant, being one step ahead of their competitors. Amad seems like he is one of those players and at 18, that is very impressive. The teenager has the confidence to receive the ball anywhere on the pitch, under pressure or not, and play a pass. His touches are almost always precise and he makes the correct decision when passing very often for a teenage winger.
The reason he makes the correct decisions is usually because he is constantly scanning his surroundings. His chance created for Daniel James against Wolves shows his awareness when he’s off the ball and when he’s on it too.
While Nemanja Matic is on the ball, Amad notices the space in between the two Wolves midfielders, and also notices that there is a large amount of space between the Wolves midfield and defence, which he looks to move into so he can receive the ball.
When Matic plays the pass, Amad can take the ball on the turn, this is because he knows he has the space to do so. This is a very useful asset to have as the player will not limit their options when on the ball because of a touch backwards, when they had the space to go the other way.
After he receives, Amad instantly notices the run that his teammate is making and the space in behind the backline which James can take advantage of. He then produces a brilliant pass with the perfect weight for James to run onto it. It was a perfect pass and deserved an assist, and the less said about the Welshman’s shot the better.
Considering he is still in the inception of his footballing career, the traits that Amad already possess are those that rarely any teenagers possess, even some players in the prime of their career still lack awareness on and off the ball. Since Amad can find space on any pitch and is always comfortable in possession, it is expected that he will continue to take to playing first-team football like a duck to water due to the kind of player that he is.
The Greenwood project
While he does seem very comfortable in the games that he’s played with the first-team, it is likely that Solskjær continues to bed him into the side like he did with Mason Greenwood last season. While Greenwood played an important part in the tail-end of the campaign, he made the majority of his appearances from the bench at the start of the season and got to grips with starting in the cup competitions.
Even though the Reds are in the Champions League rather than the Europa League next season, it is still expected that Amad will be slowly brought into the life of being a Manchester United regular.Embed from Getty Images
It is clear that he has the ability and talent to play for the club, but with the way that Greenwood has developed, it seems clear that Solskjær knows how to bring through this kind of top level talent. 2021/22 will certainly be the year when people begin to notice who Amad is, but it will probably be the seasons afterwards where he really begins to flourish in the Manchester United first-team.
Ultimately, Amad will most certainly have an increased role next season, and his skillset provides evidence that he can show that he was worth the initial fee of £19 million and that he can be a special player for the future.