Amad Diallo’s arrival at Manchester United has certainly created a flutter of excitement but fans would be advised to exercise plenty of patience when it comes to the 18-year-old.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted that Diallo will train with United’s first-team squad, it is far from certain that he will make his debut in English football anytime soon.
Nonetheless, United rightly believe that Diallo, who completed his move from Serie A club Atalanta on Thursday, is a brilliant talent who will play a prominent role for them in the future.
Amad Diallo completed his transfer from Italian club Atalanta to Manchester United this week. Though he is expected to train with United’s first team he may have to wait for his debut
United welcomed Diallo to the club on their social media accounts as the move was completed
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tipped the teenager for bright future at the club
It should be remembered that the Ivorian’s experience of first-team football is extremely limited – just five first-team appearances amounting to a mere 59 minutes for Atalanta over the past 15 months.
Solskjaer isn’t foolish enough to just chuck Diallo into the hurly-burly of a Premier League game and hopes he swims rather than sinks.
But, given time, Diallo could well be the solution to United’s problem area of the right-side of their forward line and United will hope he can explode onto the scene next season.
Mason Greenwood, just a year older than Diallo, usually occupies the right wing position for United but we’ve also seen Juan Mata and Daniel James play there this season.
Ever since Ed Woodward refused to meet Borussia Dortmund’s £108million asking price for Jadon Sancho in the summer, it’s been an area without an obvious first choice for Solskjaer.
Diallo’s first team experience with Atalanta was limited to a mere 59 minutes over five games
The Ivorian winger did score his first senior goal for the club in a 7-1 thrashing of Udinese
But Diallo is very much a right-sided winger, having played there regularly for Atalanta’s youth sides, and he has all the attributes needed to thrive there.
His blistering pace, tight-touch control while dribbling and willingness to take on left-backs are the qualities that endear him to this wide position.
In the footage that has emerged from his games in Italy’s under-19 leagues and the UEFA Youth League – where he helped Atalanta to last season’s round of 16 – Diallo typically either cuts infield to shoot or waits for a pass to an overlapping wing-back heading for the byline to cross.
His first goal for Atalanta’s senior ranks, just six minutes after coming off the bench in a 7-1 win over Udinese in October 2019, nicely illustrated what he can do.
As a child, Diallo poses for a photo with Paul Pogba – who is now his team-mate at United
Diallo has impressed for Atalanta in Italy’s under-19 leagues and the UEFA Youth League
How United could line up with Diallo
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Matic, Pogba; Diallo, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial/Greenwood
Collecting a pass with his back to goal 10 yards inside his own half, Diallo took full advantage of the space he was afforded to advance down the inside-right channel with four or five long strides.
With the right-back making a decoy run to distract the defenders, Diallo quickly shifted his balance to step inside and struck a shot on his stronger left foot that found the bottom corner.
United will certainly like the look of that. Solskjaer plays to the strengths of his forward line by setting the team up to profit on the counter-attack.
With Diallo’s abilities, it makes sense if he plays on the right-side of the three in Solskjaer’s favoured 4-2-3-1, with Marcus Rashford on the left side, Bruno Fernandes as the No 10 and Anthony Martial up front.
In youth team games, Diallo has worked effectively with a No 8 or a No 10 who likes to drift into the right channel and trade passes with him.
Mason Greenwood is usually the player stationed on the right-side of United’s forward line
Daniel James, seen celebrating his goal against Leeds United, has also played in the role
The excellent Fernandes would be ideally suited to this role. When Diallo is in possession, either the Portuguese could make a run to clear defenders away from Diallo’s path, or they could play a one-two to advance United downfield.
Assuming Aaron Wan-Bissaka continues as United’s first-choice right-back, and there has been talk of a new arrival in that position to offer competition, there could be a good understanding with Diallo.
Wan-Bissaka has got better at pushing on into positions where he can cross – though he still cuts back too often instead of crossing – and his willingness to make forward runs will either allow Diallo an outlet pass leading to a cross or cut-back, or act as a decoy.
There’s no question that Diallo fits the profile of young, exciting and speedy player United have been looking to sign since Solskjaer was appointed manager.
The stats also show a player who is developing into more of an all-round attacker with each passing season.
Diallo could work well in tandem with United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the first team
Solskjaer would hope Diallo could quickly form an understanding with star man Fernandes
For example, he contributed 23 goals and six assists for Atalanta’s under-18 team over 41 appearances. But for their under-19s, he provided 15 assists to 13 goals in 46 games.
It helps United that Atalanta have developed their own DNA that is very much geared to producing exciting, attacking football. Diallo will not have to re-learn the game when he arrives at Old Trafford.
If he can make a breakthrough in the months ahead, he could offer a long-term solution for a settled forward line. If he holds down the right-side position, Greenwood could finally move into the centre-forward role many believe is his strongest.
And, this is a bigger leap, but his arrival could make United forget all about Sancho once and for all. After all, why would United spend an enormous amount of money on a player who’d block the progress of Diallo, Greenwood and James?
But, as mentioned, patience is the key virtue here. Diallo remains a raw talent and there are plenty of examples of when he’s made the wrong decision in advanced areas, such as a loose touch to allow a defender to take the ball or a misplaced pass.
United targeted Jadon Sancho in the summer but didn’t want to pay the £108m asking price
Yet even Cristiano Ronaldo as a noodle-haired 18-year-old at United didn’t have the answers and often made the wrong call. Good decision-making can only come from experience and time on the pitch.
As Solskjaer said on Thursday: ‘It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition.
‘He is a player with all the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come.’
While he may train with the senior squad from the outset, United could well copy what they have done with another summer signing, the Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri, and play him in the under-23 side initially to get used to English conditions and opponents.
Summer signing Facundo Pellistri (left) has been playing for United’s under-23 side so far
But all the evidence suggests United have signed a real gem who could, in time, settle their attack nicely.
It also sounds like United have fended off strong competition for the youngster.
The president of Diallo’s youth club Boca Barco told tuttomercatoweb: ‘There was a line of observers to see Diallo, they came to our field from all over Italy.
‘Amad made three auditions in Turin with Juve, and was called by Reggiana, Sassuolo, Empoli, Roma and, in fact, Atalanta. He tried them all until he found the right place for the big jump.’
Now the teenager is ready for the biggest jump of all.