Sofyan Amrabat wants to stay at Manchester United, but has he done enough to convince?

Moroccan endured a largely disappointing season but ended on a high with some impressive performances and an FA Cup winners' medal

Sofyan Amrabat celebrates after Manchester United's victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Getty
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Sofyan Amrabat’s Manchester United loan period was petering out into nothingness by the start of May. The Moroccan international, 27, hadn’t started a Premier League game since Liverpool away in December 2023. His only full match was when he was asked to fill in at left-back in an FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest. He didn’t shirk the request and United won 1-0.

Amrabat, who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2022 with the Atlas Lions, was barely missed by United fans. In their eyes he’d not done enough to convince them otherwise when he was starting games shortly after his season-long loan from Fiorentina was confirmed. United would not have completed that had Kobbie Mainoo not been injured against Real Madrid in a pre-season game in July.

Let’s look at it from Amrabat’s perspective. Fiorentina knew he wanted to leave before this season started and prevented him from training with the rest of the squad. He thus spent the entire pre-season training alone and, because he wasn’t with the group, didn’t play a single game.

All the time, there was genuine interest in the midfielder and he received offers from eight clubs in England, Italy, Spain and Saudi Arabia. One club was a major rival and he spoke to their manager, but he held off since he was waiting for United to make an offer.

When the move went through and he came to Manchester, he was unable to play because of an injury picked up while training with the Moroccan national team. When Amrabat returned to fitness, he offered to play at left-back back because United had no fit left-backs. He just wanted to play for United. He was thus chosen to start against Crystal Palace in the League Cup, yet he’d not played a game for three months.

United won 3-0 with a good showing from Amrabat. For a long time it was United’s only impressive performance of the season. The National rated him 7/10 and wrote “First start for United for the on-loan Moroccan, he played out of his usual position as a left-back. Was cheered after a defensive block stopped an early Palace cross. Physically strong and regularly moved into midfield. Decent start.”

“It was the perfect night and I’ve worked my whole career, my life for this,” said the player in an emotional post-match interview where he marvelled at his new surroundings. “It’s Tuesday and the whole stadium is full!”

In January, Amrabat went to the Africa Cup of Nations. When he returned, he’d lost his place in the United side, but he trained and worked hard. He picked up the odd minutes coming off the bench – just 45 minutes in total in 11 league games. The only time he was given significant minutes in the Premier League was when he came on at Crystal Palace with his team 3-0 down. Palace went on to win 4-0.

This was now United’s lowest point of the season. The team had dropped to eighth and were about to play three sides with excellent recent records against Erik ten Hag’s side: Arsenal, who were chasing a league title; Newcastle United, who’d defeated United twice already, and Brighton, who usually beat United at home. Then there was the small matter of an FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Amrabat went to see his manager and pleaded to start a game in his favoured No 6 position. Ten Hag was under pressure to change his tactics and restrict the number of goalscoring opportunities opponents were getting. Against Arsenal, his side were more pragmatic, didn’t press high and tried to keep the two central midfielders (Amrabat and Mainoo) together without the ball in order for the team not to get too stretched. It was ironic that such a thing happened for Arsenal’s goal when Casemiro, as makeshift centre-half, was badly positioned. But while United lost 1-0, the team – and Amrabat in particular who had his then best game for the club – were much improved compared to the Palace debacle.

The former Utrecht, Feyenoord, Club Bruges, Hellas Verona and Fiorentina man kept his place for United’s final league game of the season, another win as United finished the league in eighth, on the same points as Newcastle United, who had a superior goal difference. Seventh looked sufficient for European football in 2024/25, eighth not.

With Manchester City clear favourites to lift the FA Cup and deny United European football and stories circulating that Ten Hag would lose his job, all eyes were on the final at Wembley. At least he had several of his players back from injury and wouldn’t need to play Casemiro as a defender. The Brazilian was expected to move into midfield, but there was some surprise that Amrabat was chosen ahead of him in a 4-2-2-2 formation. Surprise but no alarm after his good form in previous games.

Amrabat was one of United’s best players in what was certainly his biggest and best game for United. Beaten for pace by Phil Foden in one early move, he snapped away at challengers in City’s midfield, closed the spaces so City couldn’t exploit them and maintained disciplined positions as he protected his defence.

Amrabat’s football intelligence showed on a wonderful afternoon for him and his club. Twice a runner-up in finals with Fiorentina, he held his winners’ medal tightly in the exuberant post-match celebrations. Amrabat prays five times per day and his life is in a positive place, but what happens next?

United paid Fiorentina £8.5 million for the loan and there’s an option to buy him for a reported £20 million when the loan period ends at the end of this month. He would like to stay at United, especially having shown the fans the player he can be in the last month of the season. He likes living in Hale, South Manchester, too, and feels that the group of players is a good one without the edge he experienced at other clubs.

Yet Amrabat is one of several players and coaching staff, including the manager, who doesn’t know if he’ll be at Manchester United much longer.

Man United 2023/24 player ratings

Updated: June 04, 2024, 10:11 AM