“Welcome to English football!” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked as he was asked about giving Amad Diallo his first taste of football in this country against Liverpool.
But any doubts that the teenage winger would need time to get used to playing in this country were well and truly cast aside as he oozed confidence, calm and class on his Under-23s debut at Liverpool Academy on Saturday afternoon.
This wasn’t a repeat of the feisty encounter the two sides played out earlier this season, which would have been a proper introduction to the passion of the United-Liverpool rivalry, with the visitors running out 6-3 victors in an exciting affair.
However, as the first team were in London preparing to face Arsenal later in the day, Diallo immediately showed that he will not be in the least bit fazed by the pressure that comes with pulling on a United shirt, and showed enough to suggest that it won't be long before he is making Premier League away trips with the senior squad.
It was a debut a long time coming, given United agreed a deal with Atalanta for Diallo back in October. However, he only arrived at Old Trafford after the transfer window reopened earlier this month.
Diallo proved worth the wait, though. Within 14 minutes the 18-year-old had shown why Solskjaer is so excited about the signing.
United had been under the cosh when the right winger calmly put Neil Wood’s side into the lead. Pouncing on a loose ball from Liverpool defender Billy Koumetio, Diallo drove forward and finished with a calm and clinical left-footed strike inside Marcelo Pitaluga’s near post.
Calm was the word that personified Diallo’s play and nothing encapsulated his confidence more than his Paneka finish from the penalty spot to get United’s sixth of the afternoon.
The teenager has already been impressing in first-team training with his technique and attitude, and there are high hopes he can break into the senior squad sooner rather than later.
Expectations have been raised due to the initial £19 million ($25m) fee that United paid Atalanta up front, as part of a deal that could rise to £37m ($48m) if certain targets are met.
But the teenager didn’t play like someone who is burdened by the pressure of a price tag.
With Liverpool’s press causing United problems early on, there was little chance for him to link up with Brandon Williams down the right flank but he drifted inside to pounce on loose balls and run at the Liverpool backline.
His last taste of competitive action may have come back at the start of December but there was no rustiness. He was sharp throughout, and neat feet in the box saw Liverpool players stand off him as he created space for himself before chipping his effort of the game just wide of the post.
Pace, smart movement, confidence with a stepover or two and good work-rate – you could see why he was continually recommended by United scouts after first appearing on their radar back in 2016.
🏁 FT — #MUAcademy U23s: Liverpool 3 #MUFC 6.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 30, 2021
A scintillating performance from Neil Wood's side included FOUR goals for Joe Hugill and two for @AmadDiallo_19. Well played, boys! 👏#MUFC pic.twitter.com/LLJ0wo8tbe
After United had squandered a two-goal lead in the first half, it was more nice movement from Diallo which led to the visitors taking the lead again in the second half, as he played a smart ball out to Alvaro Fernandez, who crossed for Joe Hugill to claim his second goal of the game.
On another day, the afternoon would have belonged to Hugill, who netted four times in total to get the U23s back to winning ways in the league.
However, Diallo will undoubtedly dominate the headlines, and probably provoke a clamour from United fans to utilise him in the senior side as quickly as possible.
Solskjaer, though, has already stated that he will not block his path into the first team and, as Diallo drifted past Liverpool defenders with ease, it was easy to understand why.
The United boss will be keen to make sure the 18-year-old is ready before he really throws him into the lion’s den but there is no doubt the Norwegian will have been impressed with what Diallo produced on a cold, blustery afternoon at Liverpool Academy.