Manchester United’s centre-forward recruitment in recent seasons has been short-sighted, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, and Cristiano Ronaldo all moving to Old Trafford in their mid-to-late 30s, while Wout Weghorst joined on a six-month loan at the start of this year.
There had been little to no attempt by the Red Devils to purchase a striker with the aim of having the player lead the line for the next five to ten years. That was until Rasmus Hojlund was brought to the Theatre of Dreams for £72m.
The Dane has looked sharp so far when leading the line, but Man United’s struggles on the pitch have turned him into quite an isolated figure at times. However, the return of one man to the squad may be about to change Hojlund’s fortunes.
Amad Diallo injury update
Ivorian youngster Amad Diallo signed for Man United back in 2020 for a whopping £37.2m from Serie A side Atalanta. Three years later, the attacker has made merely nine appearances for the English giants in all competitions, including eight in the 2020/21 season under former head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
English football never truly saw Diallo’s potential until he made the switch to the Stadium of Light on loan for the entirety of the 2022/23 season. Sunderland made an unprecedented push for promotion back to the Premier League and the winger earned both the PFA Championship Fans’ Player of the Year award as well as Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year award for his contribution with the Black Cats in the previous campaign before returning to Old Trafford. During his year in the North East, former WSL striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk called Diallo a “special” talent.
Big things were expected from Diallo at Manchester United under Erik ten Hag this season but a poorly-timed injury in pre-season has kept the Ivory Coast international out of action since July with a knee problem, which ultimately forced the 21-year-old into having surgery. Nevertheless, Diallo is said to be nearing a return and could be seen back out on the pitch within the coming weeks.
Sunderland have reportedly informed Manchester United that they would be willing to take the forward back on loan in January but the English giants are keen to test Diallo’s quality in the Premier League, according to The Real EFL.
With Marcus Rashford and Antony underperforming this season, there is a real possibility that Diallo could get into the side.
Amad Diallo’s stats last season
Over the course of 42 games with Sunderland, Diallo found the net 14 times and registered four assists with the Championship outfit, finishing as the club’s top goalscorer at the end of the 2022/23 season. The ex-Atalanta man was averaging 0.45 goals per 90 in the Championship, as per FBref.
In comparison, Rashford currently holds a 0.11 goals per 90 rate, having bagged merely once in all competitions this term, while Antony has yet to find the net this campaign.
Diallo’s stats show that he is a better finisher than his Manchester United counterparts, having outperformed his xG per 90 of 0.28 compared to Rashford’s 0.38 xG per 90 and Antony’s 0.15 xG per 90. The Ivorian wide-man had a four-times better goals per 90 rate than the England international has this season despite averaging less xG per game.
The 21-year-old is also more selfless than his two competitors on the flanks, particularly Rashford who was deemed “selfish” by former Man United fullback, Paul Parker, earlier in the season. Diallo averaged 1.39 key passes last season at Sunderland while Rashford is currently averaging 1.18 key passes per 90.
Perhaps the most damning stat comes in the form of crosses into the penalty area. Diallo boasted 0.10 crosses into the box per 90 last season while Rashford has failed to complete a single cross inside the penalty area this term, according to FBRef, which is certainly one of the factors contributing to Hojlund’s poor service. Furthermore, Diallo was dispossessed 1.74 times per 90 in the previous campaign, with Rashord losing the ball 1.94 times per 90 this season.
Rashford is not a creative winger and is more of a goalscorer, hence why he has registered a higher xG per 90 than Hojlund this season in the Premier League. However, with the £375k-p/w star underperforming at the moment, Ten Hag may be able to unlock Hojlund’s prolific potential by pairing him with Diallo in the forward line.