The rise of Alejandro Garnacho: Self-proclaimed disciple of Ronaldo

There have been many football prodigies of the likes of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Hannibal Mejbri that have emerged out of Manchester United. One of the recent names to be in the limelight is Alejandro Garnacho.

Garnacho joined Manchester United’s youth system from Atlético Madrid in October 2020. He won the FA Youth Cup and the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award in May 2022.

The month before, he had made his first-team debut at the age of 17, in a Premier League game against Chelsea. The talented youngster has claimed his spot in the first team of Manchester United, especially during the absence of Jadon Sancho, who earlier was side-lined due to physical and mental health issues. 

Born in Madrid, Garnacho joined Atlético Madrid’s youth system in 2015 from Getafe. In October 2020, he joined the Manchester United Academy. United paid Atlético a £420,000 fee. He signed his first professional contract with the club in July 2021.

He came under the spotlight for his solo goal in the FA Youth Cup win over Everton, which was nominated for United’s Goal of the Month award for February 2022.

After being named as an unused substitute for several Premier League matches, Garnacho made his first-team debut for United on 28 April, replacing Anthony Elanga in the 91st minute of a 1–1 draw against Chelsea Garnacho won the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award in May. 

He scored twice in the final of the FA Youth Cup against Nottingham Forest on 11 May, helping United win the competition for the first time since 2011.

Garnacho idolizes Ronaldo and was seen performing Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘Siu’ celebration when he scored a penalty against Nottingham Forest to give Manchester United the lead in the FA Youth Cup final.

It would definitely be hard to top off a moment like that, or so he thought. In November, the teenager scored a stunning strike to give United a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in their final Europa League group game, while playing alongside his idol.

Not only that, he scored his first goal for Manchester United which was assisted by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. He even asked the veteran for his permission to perform his new ‘napping’ celebration. 

Last year, the 17-year-old uploaded a photo of himself and CR7 on Instagram, after he was given the match ball awarded to the Portuguese icon for his hat-trick against Norwich. Interestingly, Manchester City legend Aguero commented on the picture saying “Because you haven’t played with the best yet @leomessi.”

Also Read: Bukayo Saka: “I want to win the Premier League and Champions League”

The youngster is eligible to play for his country of birth, Spain, and Argentina, as his mother is Argentinian. He made three appearances for the Spain under-18 team in 2021.

On 7 March 2022, Garnacho was called up to the Argentina senior team as part of an initial 44-man squad for their two World Cup qualifiers that month. He made it to the final 33-man squad for the fixtures but did not make an appearance in either game.

He made his debut for the Argentina under-20 side on 26 March 2022, when he started in a friendly match against the United States. He scored four goals in four appearances for the under-20 team at the 2022 Maurice Revello Tournament.

Recently, the Manchester United winger is enjoying an impressive breakthrough season at Old Trafford, making 22 appearances in all competitions and scoring two goals. He scored a last-minute winner against Fulham in November and came close to earning a place in Argentina’s World Cup squad. 

But his recent outing against Leeds was subject to criticism. Erik ten Hag defended him. 

“I think he is doing well, he has an impact on our game,” Ten Hag said. “I think he is a threat, [against Leeds] he had good actions, he was lively, created chances, but had to score.

“And finally, it’s about that, that you have an effect. As a striker, you have to at least be on the scoring list, the assist list, key action list to have the right impact.

“As a United player, we expect you to have an impact to influence the score, to influence the result, to positively influence the game by scoring goals and having an assist.”

Garnacho remains one of the Premier League’s most exciting talents and would be useful to Ten Hag for their upcoming matches as Anthony and Anthony Martial are unfit.