Manchester United beat Derby County 2-1 in their first pre-season match yesterday. Facundo Pellistri scored United’s second and the goal which clinched victory in the match, in what was his unofficial debut for the first-team.
It was not only the goal which caught people’s eye though. The teenager was one of the liveliest players on the pitch in the second half and impressed many who watched, including his manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjær was happy with the wingers first appearance in the first-team, he told MUTV: “A very good goal [from Pellistri]. Very good at dribbling – composed – I thought he was bright.”Embed from Getty Images
The 19-year-old joined the side last summer in a deadline day double-swoop which saw both Pellistri and Amad join the Reds. While the Ivorian could not join up with the club until the following January, Pellistri was able to travel to Manchester and settle into Neil Wood‘s Under-23s side.
The Uruguayan winger impressed in his six appearances in the PL2 and went on a January loan to La Liga, where he was able to secure 12 appearances for Deportivo Alavés before he returned to Manchester at the end of the season. It was a solid first performance against Wayne Rooney‘s Derby for Pellistri, here is a look into the strengths that the wide man possesses.
Close control, dribbling and decision making
This is perhaps Pellistri’s biggest strength, and it was shown well in his cameo against Derby, but it’s been very apparent since he joined The Reds. The wide man has a great first touch to control the ball, often on the half-turn, but he also takes consistent quick touches when driving with the ball which makes it more difficult for the opposition to dispossess him.
It is perhaps personified through his goal in yesterday’s match, where instead of taking the chance early when he was played through by Shola Shoretire, Pellistri was able to control the ball, bypass the goalkeeper and slot the ball in the back of the net with three quick and precise touches.
The teenager’s close control helps him with his unpredictability — he’s able to complete take-one on the outside of the full-backs but can also drive into central areas with the ball.Embed from Getty Images
It is also clear that the wide man has impressive decision making in these situations when he’s driving with the ball, often knowing when to pop the ball off to a teammate, or when to look and cross. This is certainly encouraging since he is just 19 years old.
Pellistri is also very aware when he receives possession and if he notices that he’s being pressed by an opposition player, he will often protect the ball very well with his body. Helped with a low centre of gravity, he can usually hold off his man until he can find a pass in order to keep possession – or he will inevitably be fouled due to the fact that he protects the ball well.
Pellistri is a right-footed winger who predominantly plays on the right-wing. I know right!
He’s a rare breed, but the United man often looks to do what you’d normally expect of a classic wide man on the flank and aims to get to the byline and cross the ball into the area.
Pellistri has shown that he is able to put in a great whipped cross from the right side but he also is able to find a man with a low cross if he’s afforded slightly more time on the ball out wide.
The wide man has an impressive change of pace and that mixed with his close control and pace means that he is often able to create half-a-yard for himself in wide positions in the final third, which then gives him better opportunities when crossing.
In the below example, we can see Pellistri use these attributes in the clip below against Tottenham Hotspur Under-23s. The teenager squares up his full-back and then with a quick turn of pace and touch wide – he gifts himself half-a-yard.
Finally, while Pellistri is a promising talent on the ball, he has a great workrate off of it. He presses the opposition well, but more importantly, he has great defensive positioning and follows runners very well.
He will often track the opposition full-back if they look to advance through the thirds and has great defensive intensity when he has to defend one-on-one.
This is something that both Amad and Pellistri possess, but is something that some of the current United wingers lack in their game. It’s a positive that the wide man looks to have a defensive impact while also having clear talent in the attacking aspacts of his game.
It is clear that Pellistri is an exciting talent and with his gliding dribbling ability, he is a joy to watch. Yet, with United’s offensive depth, it would be beneficial for the wide man to experience another year on loan so he can get consistent first-team minutes.
Solskjær recognises the talent of the 19-year-old, but also thinks that a loan move is probably for the best this coming season. Following the win at Pride Park, the United manager said: “I can see a loan deal for him, there’s been loads of interest and for his best interests a loan would be what we look for.”Embed from Getty Images
The teenager has some impressive attributes but also needs them to be fine-tuned and then needs to improve in all the other aspects of his game too if he’s going to be a Manchester United player. A loan move next year should see him develop further, yet it’s expected that he plays a further part in United’s pre-season until then.