April 23, 2021

Man Utd

News

The Amad moment that showed he will give Man United attack a new dimension

5 min read

Amad’s big moment

Manchester United’s attack had been stale and static in the first half. Fred and Scott McTominay had struggled to get the ball into Bruno Fernandes and the movement and incision of the front three was poor, compared to the threat AC Milan carried.

If it wasn’t for Anthony Martial’s injury then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer probably wouldn’t have made a change, but it turned out to be a blessing on the night, giving 18-year-old Amad the chance to finally unleash his talent.

We’ve seen promising glimpses of the £37million winger so far, but this was the night his presence in the first-team as a realistic option was confirmed.

Early in the second half Fernandes picked the ball up in a promising area and this time he had the run of Amad to pick out. It was the kind of run that had been lacking in the first half. Not only was it a well-timed run, and not only was Fernandes’ pass pitch-perfect, but the header from Amad showed intelligence and awareness that can give United’s attack a new dimension.

Sensing Gianluigi Donarumma had advanced off his line, Amad looped a backwards header over the imposing goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

United’s attack has been short of goals and inspiration of late – the derby day win aside – and with injuries mounting this was confirmation from Amad that he is ready to play a role in that front three, either from the start or as an impact sub.

Henderson’s first challenge

Dean Henderson was moments away from a 10th clean sheet in 15 United appearances and further strengthening his case to fill David de Gea’s shoes permanently, but for goalkeepers it can be a cruel game and his failure to keep out AC Milan’s final attack will prey on Henderson’s mind.

He will know he should have saved Simon Kjaer’s injury-time header and just how important not doing so could prove to be. He looked a little unsighted for it, but the header was straight at him and having got a hand on the ball he should have stopped it.

The good news for Henderson is he will get a chance to make amends quickly. He’s expected to keep his place against West Ham this weekend and in the San Siro next Thursday and now the challenge is how he reacts to a mistake.


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The importance of Fernandes

The headlines will go to Amad for his first United goal but an awful lot of the credit should go to Fernandes as well. With a midfield pivot of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic giving the side little drive from deep the responsibility to create chances was on the Portuguese playmaker’s shoulders to an even greater degree than usual.

But his constant desire to try and create chances and carve open a defence led to the crucial goal. Whenever Fernandes gets on the ball he will look for the option that could lead to a chance. When he ends up picking the ball up in his own half that can lead to him giving the ball away in dangerous areas, but this is where he should be on the ball.

He assessed his options and clipped a wonderful ball over the Milan defence and straight to Amad. In a tight game where United were second best for much of the night, it was the kind of quality moment that only Fernandes can produce.

A regular weakness

Harry Maguire has five goals in 96 games for United but that tally should undoubtedly be higher for a centre back who attacks set-pieces aggressively.

He missed some very presentable headed chances last season, but none were as bad as his failure to score from a yard out in the first half against AC Milan.

The goal was gaping for Maguire after a flick-on from a United corner, but somehow he could only hit the post. It was an extraordinary miss.

To put it into context it had an xG rating of 0.91, which is almost as close to unmissable as it’s possible to get. Maguire isn’t the only culprit of missing big chances at United, and it’s not like it’s his main role. Daniel James missed a golden chance in the second half and Martial and Marcus Rashford can both be guilty of wayward finishing as well. It’s certainly an area where there’s room for improvement.

The missed chances from Maguire and James could prove to be costly as well. United were second best against AC Milan, but had they scored twice in this game they’d have been in control going to the San Siro. Instead, they’re now second favourites.


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Dalot’s reminder

Given he was below Timothy Fosu-Mensah in the pecking order under Solskjaer it might already be the case that Diogo Dalot’s days at Old Trafford are numbered, but his performance on Thursday was at least a timely reminder of the potential he has.

Dalot is only 21 and while he is a versatile full-back, he is probably better on the right than he is on the left, where he played in the first leg.

But he comfortably outshone Alex Telles in an attacking sense, regularly getting into deeper positions than the Brazilian playing on the United left did. He was enterprising with the ball and in getting forward.

He was also solid enough defensively. United’s attacking play left a lot to be desired but Dalot dealt well with Greenwood, perhaps aided by being a right-footed left-back and knowing United’s right-winger would look to move inside onto his left foot, and he wasn’t given too many headaches by Amad, with United struggling to get the ball to the winger to take on the full-back.

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