A Scouting Report on Manchester United Target Adam Ounas

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2016

Adam Ounas in Ligue 1 action.
Adam Ounas in Ligue 1 action.FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/Getty Images

In June, Manchester United were linked with a move for Girondins de Bordeaux winger Adam Ounas by John Cross of the Mirror.

There was a moment when a deal seemed as if it might even be imminent thanks to that most 21st century of transfer-rumour phenomena: a player following a club on social media.

As Andrew Gibney wrote for FourFourTwo on 20 June: "The player himself has done little to quell the rumours...having followed the club on Twitter over the weekend, plus Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on Instagram."

That became less significant when the player subsequently followed Real MadridJuventusNapoli, Sevilla, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, AS Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais on Twitter. Ounas, or his people, is clearly hedging his social media bets.

But what kind of player is the 19-year old, who is relatively unknown to those other than regular Ligue 1 watchers? The player himself identified two key role models from within Ligue 1, per 20 Minutes: "I really enjoy the work of two Ligue 1 players, that's [Angel] Di Maria and [Sofiane] Boufal." 

That serves as a helpful shorthand for the way Ounas aspires to play.

He has featured all across the attack for Bordeaux. He made seven of his 16 league starts on the right wing in a 4-3-3 but also played on the right of a 4-2-3-1, at No. 10 and wide on the left during a breakout season that saw him score five goals and provide his team-mates with two assists.

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He loves to take players on, using his array of close-control skills and improvisational mind to beat defenders. Gibney wrote: "There’s an instant sense of bums-off-seats excitement when Ounas picks up the ball. Nobody is necessarily sure what’s going to happen, but the sense of anticipation is always high."

That sense of anticipation is borne out by the numbers. He attempted six dribbles per 90 minutes of league action, succeeding with an impressive 3.3 of those. Only nine players with more than 10 league appearances made more attempts per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 in 2015/16.

That concentration of attempts to beat a man gives a clear indication of style of play.

For a 19-year old mercurial winger, his output is pretty decent, both in terms of the five goals he scored the number of chances he created per 90 minutes. While 1.5 key passes per 90 is not a vast number by any means, it does show a respectable level of end product for a player of his age.

Indeed, the best any player with more than five appearances managed at United last season was 1.6 key passes per 90, and Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata—the players who hit that mark—have a great deal more experience than Ounas. 

In an interview for United blog The Peoples Person, football writer Robin Bairner said:

I would liken him to Lyon attacker Nabil Fekir, who has been out injured for much of the last year. His style is the same, as is the position he plays and his preference for his left foot. Ounas is a couple of years younger, though, and of course he does not have the handicap of having to come back from a serious injury. 

He also, of course, lacks the experience Fekir has in top-flight football, but his debut season at Bordeaux has given him plenty of learning experiences. After the winger scored a crucial winner against Troyes, then-Bordeaux coach Willy Sagnol said of Ounas, per FourFourTwo:

When we play Adam, you always hope he can do a lot of good. It’s logical that if you make a change to bring dynamism, he is the player who comes to mind.

He has a lot of freshness; he has no ulterior motive. Technically he has developed well. In the lower teams, there was a question of commitment, but with us he is perfect. If he wants to progress and go further, he has to keep that state of mind.

Gibney wrote of that question of commitment: "As a kid, Ounas spent 10 years at the academy of Tours, but after a lack of playing time he caused an issue with the coach and left for a smaller club just to find time on the pitch."

Bairner echoed this, saying: "His attitude problems largely came before his time at Bordeaux."

So it would appear the difficult start has mostly been left behind him, and it looks like a bright future awaits Ounas. 

However, it seems doubtful that future will be at United.

It is notable that the rumours that swirled at the start of June have died down a little. That is not particularly surprising given the signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Mkhitaryan is not an entirely dissimilar style of player but is of course much more senior and much closer to his peak.

He too is comfortable across the attack, fond of beating a man and capable of providing a jolt of excitement. But his output is, understandably, at a much higher level given he is in the prime of his career rather than its nascent stages.

If Ounas was being considered as a first-team choice, his position has just been filled.

And the Red Devils are well stocked with talented understudies to Mkhitaryan. Andreas Pereira and Adnan Januzaj fit that bill—both skilful, both capable of providing some end product and both in need of first-team football to continue their development, put on hold by former manager Louis van Gaal's apparent lack of interest in them.

Then there is Jesse Lingard, perhaps not blessed with the same level of talent but keen, hardworking and capable of a match-winning intervention on the big stage, as he showed during the FA Cup final.

Jesse Lingard celebrates his FA Cup final winner.
Jesse Lingard celebrates his FA Cup final winner.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A little further up the pecking order, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all need to be accommodated. New boss Jose Mourinho does not need any more promising young forwards.

And while he might not fit United's bill, promising certainly describes Ounas. His future, wherever it unfolds, looks bright. Gibney was full of praise for his talents, writing: "Ounas is blessed with an ability to change direction with almost effortless ease, and his balance on the ball—combined with a great awareness of what’s around him—makes him a constant threat."

If the Red Devils were not so loaded with forwards of his type, his first season in top-flight football would certainly have been impressive enough to warrant serious attention.

Ounas taking on defenders with the ball at his feet—something he loves to do.
Ounas taking on defenders with the ball at his feet—something he loves to do.Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

Of course, if he develops into the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, this will look foolish, but for now, he is not what United need, and their fans will have to appreciate his talents from a more neutral, dispassionate perspective as he develops over the coming years.

All advanced data per WhoScored.com.