Facundo Pellistri could force Manchester United into a rethink over right-wing decision
Man Utd began their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 win against Derby County at Pride Park and it was teenager winger Facundo Pellistri who caught the eye.
For what feels like years right-wing has been an area of concern for Manchester United, but all of a sudden they seem to have an embarrassment of riches in that position.
Mason Greenwood has thrived on the right in the second half of last season and £72.9million man Jadon Sancho is also primarily a right-winger. United could end up spending £37million on Amad, currently away at the Olympics with the Ivory Coast, and they also signed Uruguayan right-winger Facundo Pellistri for £9million last summer.
Pellistri spent last season on loan at Alaves but the 19-year-old looked sharp when he came on at half-time against Derby at Pride Park. He took his goal very well after being played in by Shola Shoretire and had already won a free-kick in a dangerous position after some quick feet. He visibly grew in confidence for his bright start and was happy to run with the ball and take his man on after that.
On this limited evidence, there's an argument that Pellistri is ahead of Amad, 19, in his development and could pose more of a threat to defences with that dribbling next season. It's unlikely both will leave on loan, so after this performance, United might have a decision to make.
Heaton's moment in the sun
At 35 Tom Heaton has come full circle after returning to United in the summer and in his first appearance of pre-season he showed the value he can bring to the club.
Heaton's biggest advantage over David de Gea and Dean Henderson is his talking and organisation. Even with around 8,000 fans inside Pride Park his voice could be heard all around the ground, a continuous stream of instructions to his defenders and the young midfielders in front of them.
He produced two very good saves in the first half and helped to keep Derby at bay when they were on top in the game. But it was his organising that stood out, telling defenders where to be, bellowing out shouts of 'time' when United players had space on the ball. That's arguably the one area where De Gea and Henderson are a notch down on Heaton.
The former Burnley and Aston Villa goalkeeper will be third-choice at Old Trafford, barring a departure for one of the experienced goalkeepers in front of him, but few clubs will have a more trustworthy No. 3 in their goalkeeping ranks this season.
Jesse Lingard only returned to Carrington late last week but he picked up at Pride Park where he'd finished at West Ham in May. He bought energy to United's second-half performance, pressing Derby's defence with vigour and almost scoring with a superb effort that hit the underside of the crossbar.
Lingard looked sharp as he drifted off the list, but that is a position that United are well stocked in. As lively as Lingard looked and as keen as he was to impress it still seems hard to envisage him remaining at the club for much longer.
While United wait for the likes of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes to return Lingard may remain part of the squad a little longer, but this performance felt more important for keeping his value up than signalling any Old Trafford resurrection.
Chong needs his loan
Birmingham City officials were probably keeping a close eye on Tahith Chong here, having already agreed a deal to take the winger on loan from Old Trafford this season. The unusual arrangement has seen Chong remain at Carrington for pre-season with United short of attacking players as they wait for their first-team regulars who appeared in tournaments this summer to return.
The Dutch winger showed some encouraging signs in his 45-minute run-out though. His goal owed plenty to persistence as he bundled his way past Max Bird and then finished at the second attempt, but he'd been involved in the build-up with some quick feet opening up space to find a pass to James Garner.
Chong certainly looks like he will benefit from a season in the Championship. There is talent to work with in the 21-year-old but physically he still looks callow and he probably enjoyed the slow nature of this game. A campaign in the second tier should toughen him up a bit.
It feels like football
It was 500 days since United had last been cheered on at an away ground - coincidentally at Pride Park in an FA Cup fifth-round win in March 2020 - but they were back yesterday and it's certainly starting to feel a lot more like football.
As Juan Mata led the United players out onto the pitch there were roars of 'United, United' from the few hundred fans allowed in the away end. The players all responded to the away end in the other corner of the ground.
The noise from those fans was non-stop, particularly during the first half, and it was a sight and a sound to behold.
A pre-season friendly is hardly one to get the juices flowing but it was still a staging post for those United fans, who will hope to return to Old Trafford and away grounds up and down the country in much greater numbers once the season begins.