Manchester United have an easy decision to make with Amad Diallo vs Arsenal
Manchester United’s curious substitute strategy against Sheffield United started with the identity of the first benchwarmer told to warm-up. Anthony Martial had returned to the pitch by the time Daniel James had sped up the Old Trafford ditch for a token jog.
James ran up and down two or three more times yet never seemed a likely entrant even amid United’s impotence and the specific struggles of Martial. The only wide player introduced was Luke Shaw, a left-back.
United substitutes have embarked on post-match ‘warm downs’ in recent weeks. All eight outfield players were not subjected to the swirling rain at Fulham last week but on Wednesday night James was the only one having his sprints timed by a member of the coaching staff.
James, 23, has started seven times for United this season and racked up 10 appearances. His 10th appearance last season came on October 6 and Ryan Giggs, James’s Wales coach, confirm this week the winger is ‘frustrated’.
Giggs’s Joy Division chant became the source for James’s terrace tune three games into his United career. He scored three times in his first gour appearances, quickly defying modest expectations
Over the last 12 months, James has looked more like the rookie who was kicking his heels at Shrewsbury 18 months prior to his surprising £18million transfer from Swansea.
James played 46 times for United last season and will do well to reach half that figure in his second season. Leeds enquired about a loan deal in the summer and a temoirary change of scenery would be advisable for the 2021-22 campaign, unless there is a major change in fortune.
It was apparent on James’s debut in Perth 18 months ago United had recruited another right-footed winger who did not relish a right wing role. Solskjaer started James on the right in the season opening defeat to Crystal Palace and he was hooked at half-time.
James was an incongruus inclusion against Leeds last month but thrived and rifled in his first Premier League goal in nearly 16 months. Only the tactical anarchists of Leeds are not a reliable gauge of a player’s form and James regressed at Leicester on Boxing Day.
The expansion of benches from seven to nine substiutes has granted James a matchday squad role in eight of the last nine league fixtures but he was unused in five of them.
United belatedly changed their personnel against Sheffield United but not their formation. Donny van de Beek replaced Axel Tuanzebe, so Nemanja Matic switched to centre-back. A creative partner for Paul Pogba was needed much earlier than the 83rd minute.
Martial and Marcus Rashford were earmarked as wingers years ago by Jose Mourinho and found themselves on opposite flanks. Martial misguidedly identifies as a centre forward and has had his nose put out of joint by Edinson Cavani, while Rashford dislikes playing on the right.
The occasion was ripe for Amad Diallo, if only for the element of surprise. Diallo is a left-footed right winger and, in his only Serie A appearance of the season, enlivened Atalanta’s attack with them trailing Verona.
In his 18 minutes, Diallo attempted one shot and the WyScout system recorded 20 ‘actions’, 14 of which were deemed ‘successful’. Diallo played nine accurate passes, with only one inaccurate, embarked on a dribble, made two ‘progressive runs’, won five of his eight duels, was harshly booked for a late challenge and fouled twice. Verona midfielder Miguel Veloso was cautioned for upending Diallo.
There is little point in allocating James a plane ticket to London this weekend when he has been underused and United can maximise the unknown quantity factor with Diallo. Arsenal have done that with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, rays of light amid the gloom, in recent seasons.
Diallo offers a suitable substitute strategy.