The infamous Cristiano Ronaldo comparison is more often than not a poison chalice for a player, but we’re convinced Alejandro Garnacho is the one man on the planet who thrives on it.
Garnacho arrived at Manchester United with all the promise in the world in 2020 and quickly showed it at various levels, announcing himself to the world by firing in a brace to win the 2022 FA Youth Cup final, a month after making his senior debut at 17.
But when Erik ten Hag had doubts over his attitude and commitment upon taking charge and bringing him along for the 2022 pre-season tour, alarm bells immediately began to ring.
He’d been infected by United-itis.
You know, this plague that appears to be rotting the club and anything remotely positive within it since Sir Alex Ferguson retired? Yeah, that one.
Thankfully, Garnacho shook off the United-itis, took Ten Hag’s tough love on the chin over the next few months, set his alarm clocks and turned up on time in order to claw his way back in and not mess up his chance at a footballing institution – no matter how broken it may be.
And the Dutchman must be exceptionally thankful that he did, because in the time since, Garnacho has embarked on a steady ascent and become arguably United’s most consistent attacking threat from the start and one of few beacons of hope at just 19 years old.
Blessed with an extremely powerful yet equally dangerous blend of ability, potential and arrogance, finding a way to split the three evenly consistently is what makes or breaks a talented young player.
A young Ronaldo found that blend pretty quickly under Sir Alex Ferguson and, after a staggered start, Garnacho now appears to have found it for United.
On a run of starts under Ten Hag, the Madrid-born Argentine has gone from super-sub to devastating main event act on either flank with a wicked dribbling ability that is continually tying up defenders in knots.
Garnacho possesses an almost freakish balance and agility. The ball sticks to his boots and defenders get zapped whether he twists inside or out – a lethal position to be in considering his end product is becoming increasingly consistent.
An overhead kick against Everton seems to be the moment it all clicked into gear for him, because in the time since, he’s done his best to pay homage to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner with continually mesmeric performances.
As 7,000 or so United fans made the trip across Manchester to the birth place of the Wigan kebab and packed out the DW Stadium, Garnacho was in full stride, heating it up on an otherwise freezing evening.
Alejandro Garnacho vs Wigan pic.twitter.com/TWsasgGbuT
— M (@MarcusKnowsBall) January 9, 2024
Forgive us for sounding too terminally online, but the kid has aura pumping through his veins.
Not afraid to get chalk on his boots and dirt on his knees, Garnacho cooks up a number of wicked spells to wriggle past his marker, doing anything he possibly can to lash a killer ball across the box or fire a missile towards goal himself.
A performance that bitterly deserved the goal and assist he came so mightily close to, it feels like we’re witnessing Garnacho in a coming-of-age patch of form.
He’s behind Ronaldo in terms of goals and assists when the Portuguese maestro was 19, but considering the difference in quality between United then and now, Garnacho’s 10 goals and seven assists since he broke into the side a year ago screams world beater.
If there’s any young baller on the planet right now who we believe could use that as inspiration and kick on to become a superstar, it’s him.
2024 is a year for him to define his future.
By Mitch Wilks