Amad may get unexpected Manchester United role vs Brighton – Daniel Murphy

Erik ten Hag has only been in charge for a couple of months and we're yet to see his side in competitive action, but the early signs have certainly been promising. The uncoordinated rabble that shambled to the finish line with a dismal points total last season now actually resembles a structured, drilled outfit that knows what it's doing.

Though just friendlies, United have looked much more comfortable in possession, easy on the eye, decisive in attack and aggressive in the press. Individually, several players who look dejected last season now look to have renewed self-belief.

The biggest example of all is Anthony Martial. After his abject campaign last year, in which he scored just twice and had an absolute stinker on loan at Sevilla, his days at Old Trafford looked numbered. However, a lack of interest meant he was back in Manchester for the first day of training and then circumstances with Cristiano Ronaldo opened the door for him to get one last chance to lead the line.

Out on tour he looked like a completely different person, let alone player. Gone was the sulky, moody presence that moped around the pitch and instead there was a motivated, confident, electric front man in his place.

The Frenchman still missed good chances, but being in the position to take them was an improvement and he did manage three goals. More importantly, he was involved in most of United's dangerous attacks as a forward trifecta with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho looked to be growing into a dynamic and exciting proposition.

So it's a cruel twist of fate, of course, that injury has struck at the worst possible time. Martial has suffered a hamstring injury which has ruled him out of the opening clash against Brighton. That leaves United in somewhat of a bind, one that exasperates the need of more reinforcements in the transfer window even further.

With Martial unavailable, the only other striker at Ten Hag's disposal is Ronaldo. A man who is far from peak match sharpness after missing the majority of the pre-season friendlies and training on his own for most of the summer as he angles to engineer his departure. Even though he isn't at 100 per cent after playing just 45 minutes against Rayo Vallecano, it seems the manager has little choice but to start him.

Rashford is the other option but he's approaching a return to form out on the left and the shift may disrupt his momentum. It would also mean Anthony Elanga would have to come in, who hasn't scored a club goal since February and didn't impress during pre-season.

So it's likely Ronaldo will be in the starting XI but if he can't last the full match Ten Hag may have one last alternative he can use, in Amad. When Ronaldo was substituted on Sunday, it was the young Ivorian who replaced him at the spearhead of attack and within a few minutes he had scored. Amad pounded on a spilt save with predatory instincts and stuck the ball in the net.

He has been used as a frontman throughout the summer so Ten Hag must believe he is capable there, with his speed and finishing ability handy attributes.

It's not been a smooth year for Amad. He joined with much fanfare in January 2021 and the excitement only grew when he scored three goals and claimed three assists in his first two Under-23 matches. A smart header against AC Milan in the Europa League made fans believe he was destined for big things.

That could still be the case, he's only 20, but his growth was stifled last season when an inopportune injury saw him miss out on a loan to Feyenoord and then his stint at Rangers in the second half of the season went poorly. A baptism of fire in the Old Firm derby burnt Amad's confidence.