With the January transfer window failing to provide the same sparks as 12 months previous, Amad Diallo’s delayed arrival at Manchester United has sparked huge intrigue amongst supporters.
Bruno Fernandes was the headline arrival in 2020 but it’s a signing concluded in October that has fans scouring the internet this time around.
Joe Hugill stole some of the spotlight with an impressive four-goal haul but it was Diallo who remained on centre stage after justifying the excitement around his arrival at Old Trafford.
After a dazzling performance for the under-23s, it seems like a matter of when, rather than if, the 18-year-old will make his senior bow for United.
Here, MEN Sport analyses how Diallo’s debut showed he’s a first-teamer in waiting.
Composure and confidence
It took Diallo only 14 minutes to open his United account as he robbed Billy Koumetio in possession and raced through to fire home.
It was a cultured finish from Diallo, who waited for the goalkeeper to go to ground before lifting his finish into the far corner as if it was a mere training exercise.
Diallo then stepped up to add United’s sixth from the penalty spot. The winger was not only confident enough to assume spot-kick duties but to then leave Liverpool ‘keeper Marcelo Pitaluga red-faced as he dinked the ball straight down the middle.
Diallo’s lightning speed was well documented before his arrival at Old Trafford and that was evidenced within the first 14 minutes.
What will please Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the most was the intensity with which Diallo pressed Koumetio to rob him of possession. Once through on goal, nobody was catching him.
Edinson Cavani has been lauded by United fans for his work rate this season and Diallo showed a similar appetite against Liverpool on a number of occasions.
An infectious work ethic
While Diallo did his damage at the top end of the field, the 18-year-old did not shirk his defensive responsibilities.
In the first half, particularly, the winger was back to help out his right-back, doubling up on the Liverpool attacker and helping to retain possession in his own third.
His confidence in possession also helped United to build out from the back, an invaluable trait when in Premier League action.
If Solskjaer has any reservations about Diallo’s desire to work back to help his teammates, they were quickly expelled with his willingness to track back on debut.
An extra playmaker
Diallo was stationed on the right-hand side of United’s front three and the winger’s ability to go down the line or come inside caused havoc for Liverpool.
Whenever Diallo did drop his shoulder and drift inside on his favoured left foot, his ability to pick out the right pass for a teammate was evident.
For most raw youngsters, playing as an inverted winger is an excuse to take cut inside and shoot, Arjen Robben style, but more often than not, Diallo used the extra space to find a teammate.
The youngster was equally happy to drift from the right side into central areas to receive the ball from deep and showed considerable strength to fight off any pressure before releasing the ball to a teammate. His movement also allowed space for Brandon Williams to push down the wing from right-back.
Furthermore, Diallo showcased his maturity at such a young age, picking his passes at the right moment which led to United’s fourth goal as he slipped in Alvaro Fernandez who crossed for Hugill to score.
Sign up to our free MUFC email newsletter
Get the latest breaking Manchester United transfer news and analysis every day direct to your inbox with our free MUFC newsletter
Proving Solskjaer right
With Mason Greenwood expected to eventually convert into a centre-forward, Solskjaer is right to pin his hopes on Diallo to fill United’s right-wing for years to come, given their problems in that position in the past.
“Well that’s his preferred position,” Solskjaer said prior to United’s midweek defeat to Sheffield United.
“He is good at finding space, he can go inside and outside and he will get the time to prove that he is the one.
“Along the way we have got Mason, Marcus, Dan, Juan, Paul has played there, so we have options but I think when you look at the squad and you look at Amad and you think, ‘yeah that’s probably where we will work to fit you in’.”