CHRIS WHEELER: Alejandro Garnacho has the swagger to belong on the Old Trafford stage… the teen has returned to help United over the line in the top four race and will be an ace up Erik ten Hag’s sleeve in the FA Cup final
- Manchester United picked up an important 2-0 win over Wolves on Saturday
- Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho were on the scoresheet for the hosts
- The win was vital after back-to-back losses threatened United’s top four status
The ball hit the back of the net and Alejandro Garnacho set off towards one corner of Old Trafford, tearing off his shirt in celebration.
May 11, 2022. Garnacho had just sealed Manchester United’s victory over Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup final with a stoppage-time goal.
United’s teenage prodigy had picked up the club’s Young Player of the Year award earlier that day, but was just starting out on the road to stardom.
Almost exactly a year on, and Garnacho looked every bit the real deal on his first appearance in two months after an ankle injury.
When he scored United’s second goal against Wolves on Saturday, another stoppage-time effort in front of the Stretford End, the celebration was almost identical. Garnacho whipped off his No 49 shirt as he headed towards the fans packed around the tunnel area again.
Alejandro Garnacho impressed in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Wolves on Saturday
He scored United’s second goal in injury time as the Red Devils picked up a vital three points
But it wasn’t just the peroxide-blond hair that was different this time or the tattoos — a pair of angel wings across his chest and a sleeve dedicated to TV show Prison Break.
Manchester united (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Wan-Bissaka 6.5, Varane 7.5 (Maguire 81min), Lindelof 6.5, Shaw 7; Casemiro 6, Eriksen 6 (Fred 81); Antony 7, FERNANDES 8, Sancho 5 (Garnacho 81); Martial 6.5 (Weghorst 69, 6).
Scorers: Martial 32, Garnacho 90+4.
Booked: Casemiro, Shaw, Garnacho.
Manager: Erik ten Hag 7.
Wolves (4-4-2): Bentley 7.5; Semedo 6, Dawson 7, Kilman 5.5, Gomes 6 (Bueno 62, 6); Matheus Luiz 6, Neves 7, Lemina 6.5 (Traore 75), Neto 5 (Hwang 46, 6.5); Matheus Cunha 6 (Podence 61), Costa 6 (Jimenez 78).
Booked: Diego Costa, Dawson.
Manager: Julen Lopetegui 6.
Referee: John Brooks 7. Attendance: 73,570.
Remaining fixtures —
Man Utd: Bournemouth (a), Chelsea (h), Fulham (h).
Wolves: Everton (h), Arsenal (a).
Garnacho is a year older.
He has a more muscular physique to go with those chiselled looks, and the kind of swagger that belongs on the Old Trafford stage. And let’s not forget the new long-term contract that has put him in the big boys’ league, underlining United’s faith in their young Argentina winger.
Afterwards, manager Erik ten Hag spoke about the importance of maturity in young players, and 18-year-old Garnacho is about to become a father, with his partner Eva Garcia due to give birth to their baby son Enzo.
No sooner had Bruno Fernandes picked up his shirt and handed it back to him than Garnacho was performing part two of his celebration, sticking the ball up his jersey and sucking his thumb.
Fernandes was United’s best player and made the assist for Garnacho’s goal as he raced on to the pass and cut back inside Nelson Semedo before scoring off the post.
Fernandes spoke later about not putting too much expectation on his team-mate.
But there was no ignoring the surge of excitement around Old Trafford when Garnacho replaced Jadon Sancho in the 81st minute. Antony had made the assist for Anthony Martial’s opener, but it’s clear who is the fans’ favourite winger.
Garnacho has returned in time to help United over the line in the race for Champions League qualification, and will be an ace up Ten Hag’s sleeve in the FA Cup final against Manchester City.
‘We know Garna can change games,’ said Fernandes. ‘He plays with pace and he can take players one against one. But he’s still developing so we don’t have to push too much on him.
‘He can do great things but in the future he has to do much better than he is actually doing.
‘I don’t want to give too many compliments because when you’re young, you can get a little bit relaxed.’
The 18-year-old looks made for the Old Trafford stage and is fast becoming a fan favourite
Reminded that Garnacho was frozen out of United’s tour last summer for twice being late for meetings, Fernandes added: ‘At the beginning of the season, the manager didn’t give him many chances because he thought he wasn’t being the best.
‘But mentally he is being much better. I think he understood what it takes to be a professional player.’
After back-to-back defeats at Brighton and West Ham, United’s victory was vital to keep them clear of fifth-placed Liverpool.
Two more wins are needed to be sure of a top-four finish, and next up is a trip to Bournemouth. ‘I’m not worried about Liverpool, I’m worried about us doing our job,’ said Fernandes. ‘If we win our games, we will be in the Champions League.’
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