Saturday 16 April 2022

United starlet in line for senior Reds debut

Manchester United have named teenage Argentine striker Alejandro Garnacho in the squad to face Norwich City on Saturday. 

United have nothing to play for with seven games left so it seems an ideal opportunity to give some of the club's emerging young starlets an opportunity to stake a claim in the final few weeks of the season. With the Reds depleted for the visit of the Canaries and missing five senior first-teamers, 17-year-old Garnacho is in line for a senior Reds debut in what amounts to a dead rubber tie. 

Garnacho was called up to the senior Argentina squad for the last round of international matches and has scored 12 times for the Reds at age group level in 2021-22. Five of those have come in the Reds run to the FA Youth Cup final including a brace in the quarter-final win over the Fox cubs of Leicester. 

A year ago, Garnacho was a relative unknown to all but academy aficionados, but a series of sparkling performances have illuminated a desperately poor season for the club. He rose to prominence after a stunning solo goal against Everton when he collected the ball deep in his own half, slalomed beyond four Toffees players and slotted beyond the advancing keeper. To further endear him to his rapidly growing legion of fans, Garnacho's coup de grace came in the aforementioned win over Leicester when Cristiano Ronaldo's iconic "Siuuuuu" celebration met the young Argentine's match winning brace. 

 Garnacho grew up in the Spanish capital and joined the giants of Atletico aged 11 in 2015. United scouts kept tabs on the young star and, despite the height of the pandemic, he signed for the club in 2020 for £419,000. Considered one of Atletico's most precocious talents, Garnacho's pace and technical ability caught the eye and the teenager hit the ground running at United as he registered seven goals and three assists in his first season in M16 - despite the Covid-19 enforced curtailment. 

A regular for Neil Wood's Under-23s even though still only 17, there is a desire to protect Garnacho from the spotlight and keep his feet on the ground. 

Despite never having played a minute for United's senior team, Garnacho found himself training with Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and co after Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni called him into the La Albiceleste squad for World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Ecuador. It is surely only a matter of time before Garnacho gets the nod in the blue and white of his adopted nation - for whom he qualifies to represent thanks to his mother. 

Garnacho will look to follow in the footsteps of fellow youth team startlet Anthony Elanga in making a senior Reds debut in 2021-22 - the only sliver of light in a forgettable season. The very fact he's in the squad hints at involvement against the relegation-threatened Canaries but it seems unlikely interim manager Ralf Rangnick will pick him from the start. 

It would be great to see Garnacho get a chance to show what he can do at first team level. I've a feeling this certainly won't be the last time we see him a United senior squad. 

We can only imagine how Garnacho - not 18 until July - will be feeling only hours before United kick off against the Premier League's bottom club. 

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