Having enjoyed his career breakthrough last season, Manchester United Alejandro Garnacho could prove to be key to his club’s success despite displaying some weaker performances this season.
Still, the question remains of whether this 19 year old has the potential to be one of Man United’s key attacking threats going forward despite some questionable performances in the opening games of 2023/24.
Last season, the Argentinian winger played in 19 Premier League matches and started five of them, scoring three goals and bagging two assists in the process. (Sofascore)
He also started in three League Cup games and came off the bench twice, providing two assists as United went on to win the trophy.
Viewed widely as an impact player off the bench, drawing praise in this regard from United legend Antonio Valencia, Garnacho was given an opportunity to shine by Erik ten Hag this season, with the Dutch manager deciding to put him in the starting 11 in the first two Premier League matches of the season.
The winger appeared out of his depth during United’s Premier League opener against Wolverhampton Wanderers, especially since he received little cover from Luke Shaw, who strayed out of his position at left-back to invert to a midfield role.
Managing to complete one of just two dribbles throughout the match, Garnacho won just five of his ten ground duels while attempting only two shots – both of which were blocked.
Although he appeared to be more confident in his starting role against Tottenham Hotspur, his continued inability to track back in support of his defence as well as his predictable movements up front showed that Garnacho hadn’t quite adjusted to life as a starter.
During United’s subsequent match against Arsenal, Garnacho returned to his prior role as an impact sub, at which point he recreated some of the magic he displayed last season.
Showing exemplary pace off the bench, Garnacho did well to ramp up the intensity of United’s counter-attack, almost scoring the winner at the Emirates had his goal not been called offside.
At this point, it became apparent that while the youngster was undoubtedly a major difference-maker off the bench, he still lacked the endurance to start a full game.
United legend Ryan Giggs acknowledged this issue, explaining that while Garnacho has “done brilliantly” in his capacity as an impact player, he needs to learn how to deliver an effective minute from the first minute when he is selected to start.
During Wednesday night’s 3-0 thumping of Crystal Palace in the 3rd round of the League Cup, Garnacho delivered his first truly impressive performance as a member of the starting 11, even scoring United’s opening goal.
Garnacho displayed a high level of involvement in the win, making 58 touches and completing 41 out of 46 passes (89%) and two of two long balls.
Still, Garnacho struggled to pull off his usual dribbling game, completing none of his two attempted dribbles, while making a single tackle and just one interception when dropping back in support of his defence. (Sofascore)
Also, as The Athletic mentioned, the winger was fortunate that Sofyan Amrabat, who played at left back on the night, was able to cover plenty of ground, helping to compensate for Garnacho’s struggles to track back effectively.
Considering both his impressive and disappointing performances this season, it appears that Garnacho certainly has the raw talent to be a key member of United’s attack going into the future.
In order for this potential to be reached however, the 19 year old will need to learn how to adapt from his impactful performances off the bench where he can afford to exert large bursts of energy from the get-go to that of a member of United’s starting 11, where he’ll need to exercise more patience and build the endurance he needs to perform effectively for an entire match.
After all, one cannot go full throttle for 90 minutes.
Bridging the gap from where Garnacho is now to where he needs to be in order to become an essential United starter will require work on the player’s end as well as patience from Ten Hag to allow the youngster to start more matches as he looks to rise in United’s pecking order.