Erik ten Hag might soon have another first-team player at Manchester United 96 days ago

Man United manager Erik ten Hag might be soon be welcoming another younger member of the club's ranks into his first-team squad.

Manchester United players Amad, Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Facundo Pellistri pose for a photograph.
Amad (left) will be hoping to force his way into the Manchester United first-team fold.

Having made just three first-team appearances for Manchester United last season, Kobbie Mainoo must have been licking his lips when Erik ten Hag informed him he was going on the club's pre-season tour of the United States.

The Stockport-born midfielder, 18, had caught the eye in United's opening two pre-season friendlies of the summer, starting the wins over Leeds United (2-0) and Lyon (1-0) respectively. Immediately after the win over Lyon in Edinburgh, the youngster joined United's more senior figures in flying across the Atlantic for the tour.

Though the likes of Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro were back available for the opening game in the US against Arsenal, Mainoo kept his place, producing another polished showing in the opening 45 minutes. He then started again against Real Madrid four days later.

Unfortunately for Mainoo, his opportunity to pit himself up against Jude Bellingham and the rest of Madrid's headline acts was curtailed inside six minutes, forced off due to ankle injury. He did not play for the first-team again until being handed a start against Everton last Sunday.

Mainoo's withdrawal from the tour meant he joined fellow youngster Amad on the sidelines. Like the former, the winger also had ambitions of using pre-season as an audition period to try and impress Ten Hag.

The Ivorian, who joined United from Atalanta in January 2021, had just returned from a glittering season-long loan spell at Sunderland, scoring 14 goals and grabbing four assists to help them achieve an unexpected top six finish in the Championship. His hopes of forcing his way into Ten Hag's plans for the start of the season were quashed when he suffered a knee injury in the second half against Arsenal in New Jersey, just 14 minutes after stepping off the bench.

Unlike Mainoo, Amad is still waiting to return. He has shared various fitness updates on social media throughout his rehabilitation period, including a video of him doing some ball work on the Carrington training pitches at the start of this month. United, however, have remained tight-lipped on when he could return.

But if Amad's recent snippets on social media are anything to go by, a return might not be all that far away, meaning Ten Hag could soon have a decision to make on his immediate future. If he is back to full fitness and ready to play by the time the January transfer window opens, a snaking queue of suitors are likely to be on the telephone asking if they can borrow him for the rest of the season, no doubt mindful of the numbers he produced at the Stadium of Light last term.

However, Ten Hag should not necessarily close the door on him at Old Trafford, least because it is currently hard to identify who he deems as his first-choice right-winger. Antony's struggles are ongoing, Facundo Pellistri is not being rewarded with the minutes he deserves on a regular basis and Marcus Rashford, though he has started the last two Premier League games on the right, is not at his best on that side of the pitch.

Amad in action for Manchester United against Arsenal in pre-season.
Amad has not played for Manchester United since July.

It would be reckless to suggest Amad is going to return from injury, leapfrog Antony and Pellistri in the pecking order and become United's first-choice right-winger, but he will, at the very least, be targeting a place in and around the matchday squad on a regular basis. It was felt prior to his injury, on the back of his success at Sunderland, that he could be Antony's perfect deputy.

Antony, however, has failed to kick-on this season, meaning Ten Hag could decide to give Amad some minutes to prove his worth once he regains full fitness. Only after a collection of opportunities will United know if he is cut out to perform at the level they are currently at.

Amad, 21, got better and better as his loan spell at Sunderland progressed, ending the campaign with a flourish. Sunderland fans were not emotionally prepared to say goodbye after their campaign ended in the play-offs against Luton Town.

Albeit a league below, Amad, who operated in a handful of different roles at the Stadium of Light, flexing his versatility, demonstrated a genuine goalscoring threat, which is something Ten Hag has not had from his right-sided wingers so far this season. Just giving the winger the opportunity to provide that could reap rewards.

The prospect of Amad returning from injury, making a name for himself and giving United something different to show off in attack could be like unearthing a new signing. If he does catch Ten Hag's eye, he could join Mainoo in becoming another youngster knocking on his door.

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