One of the arguments regularly used against the idea of Amad starting games for Manchester United is his inexperience and it’s certainly true the 18-year-old remains a callow prospect.
The winger might be one of Europe’s most exciting teenagers but despite his potential transfer fee of £37million, all of his nine senior appearances for Atalanta and United have been off the bench — amounting to little more than 150 minutes of action.
But Amad will turn 19 in July. The argument around his relative lack of experience so far misses the fact at some point he will need to be exposed to first-team games on a regular more basis, if he’s to turn potential into a glittering career.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was regularly made the point that the Ivory Coast winger is adapting to a new country since his January arrival in Manchester and it’s only right to point out that he’s doing it at a very difficult time, given the restrictions in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“He’s still a young lad, he’s 18 but of course we see top, top potential in him,” said Solskjaer.
“He’s a very good lad, very likeable, he works hard. Of course he needs to adapt to a new country, a new language.
“He doesn’t speak English well enough still to feel confident enough to engage in the conversations – but that’s coming, he’s learning.
“We believe he has the attributes mentally, technically and physically to be a top player for us.”
Perhaps the safest approach with Amad is to continue easing him this season and wait until next term to really integrate him into the side. But there’s also an argument that United need him now and that they have an ideal opportunity to give him a first professional start.
The knee injury that could rule Anthony Martial out for the rest of the season was already a headache for Solskjaer, before Marcus Rashford limped out of the win at Brighton.
Rashford’s relentless schedule since last June has shown signs of catching up with him recently and he probably needs to be handled with care between now and the end of the season.
United face a difficult Premier League assignment at Tottenham on Sunday, although the win on Easter Sunday has given them breathing space in second.
Their Europa League quarter-final looks a much more appealing assignment, however, and while it would be wise to caution against taking Granada for granted — given they’ve knocked Napoli out of the competition already this season — United should have too much for them.
Diego Martinez’s side are one of the success stories of La Liga, but they’re ninth in a weak edition of Spain’s top flight and lost 3-0 at home to Villarreal at the weekend.
There would seem little point in rushing Rashford back to face the Andalusians, but to travel without him and Martial would leave Solskjaer with only three senior attackers in Daniel James, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.
The United boss could seek alternative solutions, such as fielding Donny van de Beek or Paul Pogba on the left, but there’s also an argument this could be an ideal time to start Amad.
The teenager is more likely to get to grips with continental opposition than the Premier League for now, as he showed in a vibrant 45-minute cameo against AC Milan in the last-16.
Handing him a start against Granada would still allow Solskjaer to give him some protection, with the possibility of using five substitutes meaning he wouldn’t have to play more than an hour, while it would also allow Greenwood or Cavani to be handed some rest ahead of the weekend.
United are right to handle Amad with caution, but at some point his talent will demand a start. Easing him in in a very winnable Europa League quarter-final, away from the glare of Old Trafford, could be an ideal opportunity.