A year ago Manchester United committed a potential £37million to signing arguably the best right-winger in the 2002 age group in Europe. Now, 12 months on, they are set to pay nearly £80m to bringing in the best right-winger in Europe in the 2000 age group.
Young attackers these days have plenty of versatility, so Amad and Jadon Sancho might not be permanently stationed on the right, but there’s no doubt that is their strongest position and United aren’t short of options on the left-wing, either.
At 21 the best is yet to come from Sancho and he would clearly be a statement signing for United, but it does put a potential roadblock in Amad’s path to more regular first-team football.
You would expect Sancho to start on the right of United’s front three next season, with Edinson Cavani leading the line and one of Marcus Rashford or Paul Pogba on the left. There is also Mason Greenwood, Daniel James and, perhaps, Anthony Martial to add competition in attacking areas.
So while Amad played 267 minutes in eight appearances for United after arriving from Atalanta in January, the teenager might find opportunities harder to come by in 2021/22.
He’s certainly made it clear that he sees the right-wing as his most likely position going forward.
“I see myself more as a wide-right player, but I have always said that, in football, you should never have a preferred position,” he told UTD Unscripted. “Okay, perhaps you have a preference, but you should be ready for anything.
“I have played wide left, wide right, and I have played through the middle, so all of the positions are the same to me. If the coach tells me to play in a specific position, there will be a reason for that. I will not argue, I will just play in that position.
“If I really have to say a favourite position, I would say wide-right, because, from there, I can dribble and carry the ball deep into the opposition’s half. So I guess it is the position I like best, but I have to be ready for everything.”
That leaves United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a decision to make over Amad next season. A loan move may be tempting for the teenager, but clubs can often be reluctant to let the very best youngsters leave, even temporarily, preferring to keep an eye on their development in-house. With a £37m transfer fee Amad probably fits that description, but it must be weighed against the need for regular football in his development.
For all his obvious promise Amad still hasn’t played an awful lot of senior football. His two Premier League starts against Leicester City and Wolves are the only senior starts of his career and he has made just 13 appearances for United and Atalanta, playing only 331 minutes of competitive football.
During his UTD Unscripted interview the teenager touched on his development and the importance of staying patient.
“But I must say that I am not in a hurry. I am still very young, the only thing I need to focus on is getting better day after day, develop and learn from the players who are already experienced in this league, like Pogba and Rashford, who already have experience in this type of football,” he said.
“I need to develop slowly but surely. I need to listen to my coaches’ advice and, when I get more chances to play in United’s first team, it will be up to me to show my worth and show that they did not make a mistake when they bought me. When my chance comes along, I will be ready take it, but I will take my time. I’m not rushing anything. This is who I am and it’s working well for me so far.”
When United signed him Amad was considered one of the hottest prospects in Europe, but it does feel like this year is going to be crucial for his development.
If United allow him out on loan then they have to pick the right club, one where he will get chances to play but will benefit from working under a specific manager and set of coaches, improving his game on the training pitch but also, crucially, improving his game to suit what United want from him.
The alternative option is to keep him in house. That way United’s coaches can keep a close eye on Amad’s development at Carrington, but doing that will mean they have to find him opportunities to play. Those will arrive in the League Cup, but there’s no certainty how long United will be involved in that competition. There will need to be games in other competitions as well.
United will soon have two of the best young right-wingers in the world in their squad, but making sure both fulfil their potential won’t be easy.