Manchester United completed the signing of 18-year-old winger Amad Diallo from Atalanta this week, a deal initially struck back in October subject to the necessary finishing touches and work permit.
Diallo earned rave reviews in Italy, despite making relatively few first-team appearances for Atalanta, and United have committed to a £37.5m deal worth £19m up front an a further £18.5m in add-ons that will be triggered over time.
Diallo has already been assigned a first-team number and United hope he will ultimately play an active role in helping to restore the club’s former glory days.
But even though he is clearly a signing with serious first-team intent – the price tag alone gives that away, just how much of a role he will have in the remainder of this season will depend on how well he initially copes in training and settles into his new environment.
The club has been cautious over the last few months not to over expose or ask too much of fellow 18-year-old Facundo Pellistri, who has been playing at Under-23 level so far. The Uruguayan has impressed at reserve level and has at least made it onto the first-team bench as well.
Diallo could prove to be a similar story, at least early on, because Pellistri is now knocking on the first-team door after being allowed that initial time to find his feet.
Despite caution, Saturday’s clash against Watford, an FA Cup tie against a team from a lower division, might have been the perfect low pressure introduction for Diallo. That was especially the case when Pellistri was ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus, ruining his chance.
In reality, the Watford game has come too soon for Diallo as his paperwork goes through the final stages after being granted a ‘Governing Body Endorsement’ by the FA for his work permit. Coronavirus protocols have added an extra later of necessary caution that will delay things by a few days. At best, he might be eligible to play by the time United face Burnley on Tuesday.
Expecting him to feature when United face Liverpool on 17 January is unfair and unrealistic.
The greater likelihood is that it will be a little while before United fans see Diallo in action at first-team level. Competition for attacking places in the senior squad is fierce at the moment, and only if he proves impossible to ignore in training will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer throw him in at the deep end.
Solskjaer confirmed as such when speaking to the press on Friday, saying: “He’s still not been with us in the training group.
“I’ve seen there’s been lots of expectations on Amad and rightly so, he’s an exciting player with fantastic attributes we look forward to developing and giving him the chance to succeed at Man United. It’s important we give him that time to settle in, if it’s in the 23s for his first few games, or if he looks so ready to go into the first team, I don’t know yet.”
Longer term, United have high hopes for Diallo. If he ultimately thrives it could go a long way to solving the right-wing problem that has persisted since at least 2015.