Football Features

Amad bags daring debut goal and gives a glimpse of the future in Man Utd’s 1-1 draw with Milan

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:09, 11 March 2021

In a game of two-halves, Manchester United were denied a win by a late AC Milan equaliser in the Europa League.

At half-time of the match, United had been very much second-best. Milan had dominated the match with their aggressive and proactive play, scoring twice only to see both ruled out (one incorrectly). With a second-leg in Italy to come things didn’t look good for The Red Devils.

Then Amad Diallo came on.

To be sure, Amad didn’t single-handedly turn the game around like Roy Keane in Turin. But he did add some energy and drive in the final third and moreover his introduction allowed Mason Greenwood to play his natural position of striker.

Greenwood has been playing right-wing since breaking through for United as the striking spot was usually filled by Anthony Martial and getting the teenager on the field was the most important thing. And Greenwood can definitely play wide, it’s just not a role in which he excels.

But United have not managed to find a better right-wing option all season. They’ve tried Martial, they’ve tried Marcus Rashford, they’ve even tried Paul Pogba. None have really worked. Daniel James has proven situationally useful but his style of play (which is to run and gun) means he is unlikely to become a regular starter, rather a very useful first substitute and rotation guy.

In order to keep Mason Greenwood in attack where he belongs, United need someone they can trust to start out there. Someone who can dribble, who can press, and who can create havoc and mismatches with his skill, speed and balance.

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This is a role Amad Diallo fits perfectly.

If nothing else he is a player willing to actually make runs off the ball. Too many United players stand around waiting for a pass, which stifles the pace that United’s attack can play at and makes it all to easy for opposing defences.

When united are at their best they’re moving off the ball at pace, driving into space and picking up on through-balls. But as much as United need players to play those passes (and they certainly do: Nemanja Matic was horridly mediocre tonight even before he failed to track Simon Kjaer’s run as the Dane scored a late equaliser) they need players to make those runs.

Just like Amad did when he scored United’s goal, driving in from the wing he penetrated the Milan defence and so a Bruno Fernandes through-ball found him in space. Unfortunately his back was to goal and he was going to probably cede position if he tried to take a touch, so what did he do? Well, he improvised, arcing his neck he guided a beautiful back-header up and over the onrushing Gianluigi Donnarumma!

It was a delightful goal, his first ever for The Red Devils (from his first ever shot for the club) and you would expect the first of many. The way he energised United’s play couldn’t last at this pace, given the withdrawal of Bruno Fernandes leaving the midfield without any notions of ball progression. And so United got deeper and then Milan inevitably equalised, but for that brief moment we got a glimpse of what United can be with Amad in the side.

Amad wide-right, Greenwood up-top (and Greenwood’s freedom as striker saw him go on a mazy dribble that should have resulted in a second goal but for Daniel James’ bizarre miss) and Rashford on the left is the way of the future for Manchester United. He is a special, exciting and improvisational talent. Even if Man Utd miss out on Jadon Sancho again this summer, with Amad Diallo around it might not be the end of the world.