The stunning Man Utd starlet Erik ten Hag must build his attack around next season

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The Red Devils beat Newcastle United on Wednesday evening.

My girlfriend fosters rabbits, gives them somewhere safe and steady to live until they can find a ‘forever home’. She’s a pretty great person. Consequently, it is rare for my house not to have at least one excess bunny hopping about in some room or other - chewing on the skirting boards, scratching at the pile of the carpet, eating hay like it’s going out of fashion.

Most come and go in a week or two, fluffy little lodgers who I’m glad to accommodate but equally unbothered to see leave. There was one exception, however. Mr. Nubs was his name, and for the month or so that he shacked up in our spare bedroom he was my best friend, my pal, my homeboy, my rotten soldier, my sweet cheese, my good-time boy. When he eventually went to live down south with a lovely, caring lady named Susan, I was gutted. Every now and again, my girlfriend will be sent photos of him in his new home - lounging on a sofa or partway through the munching of a dandelion root - and I feel instantly conflicted. On the one hand, I’m glad Mr. Nubs is thriving. On the other, I still miss the little fella.

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This is essentially how I feel about Amad Diallo. On Wednesday evening, the Manchester United winger scored his first Premier League goal for the club, pearling home a screamer in a 3-2 win over Newcastle United that very much keeps the Red Devils’ continental hopes alive heading into the final weekend of the campaign. In my head, I am pleased for the lad, this Ivorian boy prince with his beaming grin and his elastic proclivities; in my heart, I wish to the almighty heavens above that he was still pulling these kind of stunts in a Sunderland shirt.

Evidently, I’m not the only one. Social media was awash last night with Mackems living vicariously through Amad - buzzing when he notched an assist for the first, even more buzzing when he found the net himself for the second, positively delirious when he got booked in the 81st minute and landed a glittering array of Build-a-Bets all across Wearside. The fact that he did it against Newcastle certainly doesn’t hurt matters either.

This was a performance that felt like an arrival, a familiar illustration of the unassuming sorcery that the forward so readily oozes in every silken motion. There is a directness to Amad, a lively vitality that fizzes with unpredictability and that United have been sorely lacking for much of this drab campaign.

We saw a glimpse of those same qualities when he streaked away to score a last gasp winner in the seesawing FA Cup thriller against Liverpool back in March. Since then, his minutes have been piecemeal and drip-fed, rationed for reasons that make very little sense from an outside perspective - especially in the context of United’s broader mediocrity.

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But maybe Erik ten Hag is beginning to see the light, to embrace the vision. Wednesday evening was Amad’s second consecutive Premier League start, and with every passing outing he seems to settle a little more. As a dedicated sufferer of Sunderland, I have seen this show before; the tentative period of adjustment, the first green shoots of confidence, the sudden irrepressible explosion into form.

Over the course of 90 minutes against Newcastle, the 21-year-old showcased exactly why he has to be given more of an opportunity to shine next season. Cameos are not enough, Amad has to be starting games because, well, look what happens when he does. Hell, you could probably even make a convincing argument for United building their attack around the burgeoning potential that he and Alejandro Garnacho possess.

And I hope that does happen. I hope Amad takes the Premier League by storm and establishes himself as one of the most feared and talked about young talents in European football. I hope he thrives. But that doesn’t mean I won’t feel that same lingering pang of disappointment every time I see his name on a Manchester United team sheet.

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