Man United could save millions this summer by swerving a right-winger signing and prioritising other areas of Erik ten Hag’s squad to strengthen.
Facundo Pellistri has faded into the background since his deadline-day arrival in 2020, but his raw talent, matched with Ten Hag’s proven coaching ability, could bolster United’s attacking depth.
United surprised many with the out-of-the-blue £9million signing from Uruguayan club Penarol on the final day of the summer transfer window. Pellistri’s arrival was met with disappointment as it seemed like the Red Devils had turned to an 18-year-old alternative after their failed pursuit of Jadon Sancho.
Penarol were led to believe he was joining Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team immediately, but Pellistri left on loan for Alaves in January 2021 before returning for the 2021-22 season. But the tricky winger has struggled in a struggling team, making 35 appearances in all competitions as Alaves finished 16th and 20th in La Liga, suffering relegation last term.
But Pellistri impressed many during pre-season last summer before his second loan stint in Spain. And now 20, Pellistri has shown glimpses of promise for Uruguay since making his debut in January, most recently providing an eye-catching assist for Edinson Cavani in Friday’s 3-0 win over Mexico.
Ten Hag has proven his elite coaching ability throughout his career so far, a crucial aspect of the criterium which landed him the job at Old Trafford. He is also known for his tendency to put faith in young players and help them enter first-team football at Ajax, a club with similar principles to United.
The Dutchman will know he won’t have a bottomless pit of cash to start his rebuild this summer, and he is understood to have pinpointed a centre-back, two central midfielders and a striker as priority signings. There is also uncertainty over the right-back position after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was informed he doesn’t feature in the new boss’ plans.
United have struggled to cement an established right-winger for years. Sancho arrived as a potential solution to the issue, but he showcased his best form on the left in his debut campaign. Mason Greenwood heavily featured, given he was the club’s only left-footed first-team attacker, but he is unavailable to Ten Hag.
The former Ajax manager has been linked with a move for Brazilian winger Antony and is expected to bring at least one star from the Amsterdam giants with him to M16. But he would demand a hefty fee, and with other areas at the forefront of his thinking, a move seems unlikely this summer.
Pellistri and Amad Diallo will return from disappointing loan spells ahead of the 2022-23 season, but both undoubtedly have something to offer now and in the future. Ten Hag will be chomping at the bit to start coaching United’s players who have recently slumped, particularly the younger stars with high ceilings.
Suggesting Pellistri will be able to walk into the United first team and demand a regular starting berth on the right would be ill-judged. But with Europa League football on the agenda and the club’s attacking options currently lean, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ten Hag decided to keep Pellistri, Amad, or both under his wing.