Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried to play down Amad Diallo’s superb debut goal for Manchester United – but the brilliance of the teenager’s headed finish drew glowing praise from elsewhere.
As a predatory striker himself, the Manchester United manager must have been impressed with the way Diallo guided Bruno Fernandes’ inch-perfect chipped pass over Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the net from 12 yards in the 1-1 Europa League draw with AC Milan.
Yet Solskjaer contented himself with saying: “The pass made it. It was probably the only place he could put it, although the timing was perfect and it was a great moment for the kid.”
On only his third United appearance since his £19m move from Atalanta in January, it was a goal worth celebrating and skipper Harry Maguire was rather more expansive in his praise.
“He is a young boy with a big future,” he told BT Sport. “You can see day in, day out he is starting to improve. He is going to be a big player for us.”
Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon was certainly impressed from his vantage point in the press area, where he was commentating for BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I can’t tell you how good that goal is,” he said. “The execution, the timing of the run and the awareness to flick it over the keeper’s head. It was so instinctive.
“He looked about 12 when he came on. He is so small. But he has a turn of pace and lovely close control.”
Diallo replaced Anthony Martial at half-time, and Solskjaer does not expect the Frenchman to recover from a blow on the hip in time for Sunday’s game against West Ham, when Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford are also likely to be missing.
That is likely to create another opportunity for Diallo, as Mason Greenwood and Dan James will be United’s only fit forwards.
But if it was a good night for Diallo, goalkeeper Dean Henderson learned a harsh lesson about life in the United spotlight.
Largely faultless in his 15 previous appearances this season, Henderson’s attempt to keep out Simon Kjaer’s injury-time header was weak.
And while other mistakes contributed to the goal, including Nemanja Matic failing to track his man, Henderson did not stand up to the Dane’s effort, which went over him at head height.
“It was a disappointing goal to concede but it can happen,” said Solskjaer.
“Dean can save it. I have seen him save them. But we should have attacked the ball with the men we had there.”
Henderson has been given his chance due to David de Gea returning to Spain for the birth of his first child.
There have been calls for the England man to get the job on a full-time basis but former United midfielder Paul Scholes feels that will not help Henderson’s cause.
“That mistake gives a little opening to David de Gea,” Scholes said on BT Sport. “It’s not a glaring mistake but it’s a mistake.”