Amad can become a 'midfield maestro'

Friday 24 March 2023 10:00

Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray has provided detailed analysis on Amad's loan spell with the Black Cats, as he praised the Manchester United youngster for his tremendous impact at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats boss was appointed around the time Amad joined at the end of August and has trusted the 20-year-old with a key role in his side throughout the Championship campaign.

It is clear how highly he rates the skills of the United prospect, whom he feels could even play as a central midfielder in the division, such is his quality when in possession of the ball. There is also a fascinating comparison with Bruno Fernandes in terms of where he can operate on the pitch.

With the Reds keeping close tabs on the winger's progress, he will be striving to add to his tally of nine goals when the Wearsiders return to action at leaders Burnley, after the international break, and he will do so with his boss's effusive praise ringing in his ears.

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"I think my first game was against Rotherham at home and I didn’t see him beforehand," Mowbray recalled to MUTV. "We picked the team but we’d only had one day’s training and I think he got introduced to the crowd at half-time in that game.

"It took him a few weeks, to be honest, and I almost put him in the mix with the other young foreign players the club had signed, players from France and Costa Rica, and Amad. I had watched Amad come off the bench generally for Glasgow Rangers in the season prior and saw little bits and bobs but it didn’t take him long.

"After a few weeks, I think all the coaching staff could see the talent, I’m going to say the brilliance he has with the ball. The ball seems so easy to him, on his left foot, but he needed to build his own confidence levels up, I think to the point where, maybe eight weeks ago, he was scoring almost every game. I think he goes through one spell of five in six games, something like that.

"A wonderful talent but, as you say, he’s quite a shy kid who never puts himself really forward, he never peeps up and says why didn’t you do this, why aren’t I getting the ball here, I should be getting it more. I just tell the team really to try to get it to Amad. Work the ball to Amad, work it to Patrick Roberts, work it to Jack Clarke, to the talent in the team. Generally, they make the right decision with the ball and we’re all delighted with Amad and his progress."

Mowbray revealed that he has regular chats with his former Middlesbrough central defensive partner Gary Pallister and they chat about how Amad is faring and what he can potentially bring to the United side in the future.

As somebody who has worked wonders with youngsters during his managerial career, the 59-year-old clearly takes pride in the way he can handle fledgling footballers trying to make their way at the top level.

“Listen, I think it’s amazing Sunderland have got such talented footballers," he said. "For Amad, the ball is so easy. I was manager of Blackburn Rovers for five-and-a-half years and I took a lot of players from Liverpool, Manchester City, the north-west clubs around us really. I’m trying to think but Harvey Elliott was the last one and he’s doing okay for himself now but I personally like talents, I like good footballers, where the ball is easy for them.

"It’s not enough to be a footballer, of course, you have to have character, personality, resilience to bounce back from bad days, be brave. If you’re a top footballer, though, you have to be comfortable with the ball, take it in tight areas and Amad can undoubtedly do that. I encourage the team to give him the ball as often as possible and, generally, he makes really good decisions. He knows when to pop it off and when to dribble. He has got a left foot where the ball seems stuck to it sometimes.

"And we try to bring his personality out so that he can interact with the other players. He’s developed a really tight relationship with Patrick Roberts and they’re both wonderful technicians. They’ve both got good left feet and generally, in the game, left-footed players seem to be a little bit more confident and smooth-looking don’t they, left-footers? Probably because it’s the only foot they ever kick it with!

"I’m more than happy to have the talent we’ve got in the squad and I think Amad fits into it. A lot of our goals this year have come down the right-hand side, when Amad is playing like a no.10 on that side with Roberts really wide. The way they link and play each other in, dribble or stick the ball in behind and cut it back to each other. I am sure there are lots of goals as examples you can find with Amad and Patrick interacting with each other. So, yeah, I’m just happy he’s our player.

"The other important thing worth mentioning is how robust he has been. So many games, I know Manchester United are playing a massive amount of games, every three days of course, but we had a five-week spell where it was literally every three days and the robustness of the boy to keep playing, to start every game. I very rarely bring him off, I think I’ve only brought him off once in a game. Considering he played so little football over 90 minutes for any team really.

"We’re delighted he’s here. I hope he’s progressing, I hope Manchester United see the development of him, just playing football. I know Gary Pallister very well and I sit with Pally sometimes and we have a coffee and I say to him the football club shouldn’t worry about the boy with the ball. I say worry, I’m sure they don’t as they paid a few quid for him and know what they’ve bought.

"If he’s got the right personality and only time will tell when he is among the star players at United, whether he can integrate and become part of what they want to do because they shouldn’t fear he is going to lose the ball too often or give the ball way or make bad decisions. At this level, he is a maestro with the ball. If feels for me, at United, he would integrate with those high-quality footballers and they wouldn’t have any problem lending him the ball, as you might say in football, as sometimes you give the ball to somebody knowing he’ll give it to you back or slip you in to score. The ball is not a problem for him, whatever he does with it.”

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Amad has been used in a few different positions this season, including an emergency striker in the pulsating Emirates FA Cup draw at Fulham, after leading scorer Ross Stewart was forced off injured.

His quick interplay with his colleagues, particularly down the right, has been a feature of the Black Cats' play, and Mowbray provided an interesting answer when asked if our young wide man has the flexibility to perform in different roles.

“I’ve been trying to say to you the ball isn’t a problem to him," insisted the Sunderland manager. "He can play wide, he can play inside, he can play deep. I think he can play centre-midfield for us in the Championship, you know. Just give him the ball and he very rarely loses it. Yet we generally put Roberts really wide and play Amad just inside him.

"We’ve had huge success down the right-hand side of the pitch with those two linking and playing with each other, people running off the back of the two of them and sliding people in. It’s very profitable for us. He is versatile. I see United games, I watch a lot of football, and Bruno [Fernandes] plays a bit of everywhere, off the right sometimes, inside as a 10 or as a running 8, he can play deep and link the midfield up. Amad is a similar type of footballer.

"I hope Amad will bring personality to the team when he gets back to Old Trafford and he will find his niche in that group. If not, Sunderland are always welcome to have him back because he’s been amazing for us!”

Watch some of Amad's goals, courtesy of official Sunderland club footage.

While Amad will always pass the 'eye test' when it comes to watching his composure and quality on the ball, his manager was also keen to highlight some of the other elements of his game, backed up by the data available to the coaching team.

Mowbray has been impressed by the loan recruit's personality as well, something that he values highly when building teams, and acknowledges the fact that the supporters have also taken to the African attacker.

"He can do huge numbers, his stamina is amazing," explained Mowbray. "His top speed is good and yet, what catches the eye, is his ball manipulation and how tight he keeps that ball to his left foot. Very little does he give it away. If he does give it away, his natural quick reaction is to try to win it back.

"He’s been amazing for us. I don’t want to sit here and overplay it as, like all young players, he has things he has got to get better at, things he has to learn and it’s right, every now and again, to shout at him and demand. He can sit there and think I’ve come from United, he’s on loan and he doesn’t really have to give everything he’s got in any given moment, especially as he knows he’s one of the best players, if not the best player here. He could easily, some days, just not bother and yet that’s not his personality.

"He reacts, when I have shouted at him occasionally, he reacts the right way. He is a good guy and a good human being. That is why he is so liked at this football club. Of course, his goals have helped us win football matches and his assists have been amazing but I always, firstly, like having good human beings at the football club. Amad fits into that category. As I say, I just hope he can integrate into the next pre-season at United.

"As I have said, Harvey Elliott came to Blackburn for a full season, just to grow and learn about first-team football. The expectation of having a grumpy manager shouting. You have to live in that world. I think, what I’m saying is it’s about resilience, you have to have to be resilient to be able to bounce back and rise to the challenges that are thrown at them really.

"Here, his main challenge is to help us win football matches by his brilliance with the ball, his interaction with Roberts and Trai Hume, who plays behind him, so Amad has done that exceptionally well and I’m delighted with him. The fans have got many songs about him and you don’t get to that level really without doing it on the pitch. Just because a player comes from Manchester United, if he’s not performing to a high level, the fans don’t endear themselves and yet Amad is a big favourite here"