But as has been the case under Erik ten Hag, Manchester United have tended to find unlikely answers through the impact of substitutes.
One player who has become an instant hero in the colours of United has been Alejandro Garnacho. Who can forget his memorable last-gasp winner against Fulham in the last game before the World Cup.
Garnacho, the super sub
But this was City, the reigning Premier League champions and when the Dutch manager turned to the young Argentine, it seemed like it was more in hope than anticipation.
But the master tactician seemed to have it all figured out. There was a clear instruction to Luke Shaw after the substitution to feed the ball to the winger as fast as possible.
And suddenly, the United players seemed to be reinvigorated and Garnacho had a couple of runs down the left flank and earned a corner in his first foray.
Alejandro Garnacho’s record in 2023:
🅰️ vs. Bournemouth (45 mins)
🅰️ vs. Everton (19 mins)
❌ vs. Charlton (90 mins)
🅰️ vs. Manchester City (25 mins)
Insane contribution. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/R32yvPt1tb
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 14, 2023
His second run was also impressive and he seemed to have the beating of the pacey Kyle Walker and it needed Manuel Akanji to double team the 18-year-old for City to win back possession.
And ultimately, the hero of United’s FA Youth Cup win last season, did make the telling contribution in the end.
In the 82nd minute, he tried to lay it back to Bruno Fernandes, the scorer of the first goal, only to see it get blocked.
Any other youngster would have tried the safer option of passing it back again and trying a different route. But not Garnacho.
Great start to 2023 for Garnacho
His smart turn completely fooled Nathan Ake and he whizzed the ball into the danger zone inside the penalty box. And the kind of form Marcus Rashford is in, there was no chance he was missing it.’
In the process, Garnacho became the youngest player ever to register an assist in a Manchester derby since the dawn of the Premier League.
His cameo included one key pass, one big chance created and one memorable assist. This is now his third assist in four games in 2023 and long may United’s latest star shine on the Old Trafford stage.
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