On Saturday, Man United defeated Wolves 2-0 to mark Alejandro Garnacho’s return from injury.
Alejandro Garnacho stepped off the playing surface at Old Trafford the last time in pain and discomfort.
He had been the victim of a crushing tackle from Southampton right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, which caused him to leave M16 on crutches and wearing a protective boot. It kept him out of commission for precisely two months, costing Manchester United and Erik ten Hag one of their most important players.
On Saturday, after United’s 2-0 victory over Wolves, the scene could not have been more dissimilar as he left the field. The Argentine could hardly suppress a smile as Ten Hag’s right arm was tightly encircling his shoulder.
With 82 minutes played, he made his eagerly awaited comeback from injury, and 12 minutes later, he scored a goal to mark the occasion. The young player, who had been given the all-clear by Bruno Fernandes, showed excellent poise and deception to trick Daniel Bentley of Wolves and score a much-needed victory for the Reds by firing the ball via the post.
The young player made a fitting comeback, and now he will be hoping to finish the season on a high note in the three remaining Premier League games and the FA Cup final on June 3 at Wembley against Manchester City. And he will be hoping that his strong performance against Wolves will increase his chances of securing a regular starting position between now and the end of the season, particularly if Marcus Rashford faces a period of injury absence.
Garnacho, who committed his future to the club by signing a new contract last month, may be tempted to be unleashed, but Ten Hag may decide to hold the 18-year-old back for the time being and make use of his ability to influence events from the bench. As a substitute with an immediate impact, the 18-year-old is one of the select few players on the team with the quick-change ability.
His goal against Wolves was his fifth senior United goal, all of which have come this campaign and four of which have come from the bench. He has three Premier League goals to his credit, all of which have been added on or after the 85th minute and have all been scored while acting as a substitute.
Prior to the World Cup, he scored his first league goal against Fulham at Craven Cottage in the final seconds of stoppage time. This goal appears to have started a recent trend. In February at Elland Road against Leeds United, he scored in the 85th and 94th minutes. In the fifth round of the FA Cup, he also scored in the final seconds of play against West Ham United.
With his goal against Wolves, Garnacho has tied for third most goals scored by a substitute in the Premier League this season with Reiss Nelson of Arsenal. Only Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur and Callum Wilson of Newcastle United have more (four).
It’s interesting to note that both of Garnacho’s two Premier League assists this year have come from the bench, giving him the joint-most direct goal contributions this year in the Premier League (five), along with Wilson and Nelson. This season, Garnacho has only had one goal, which came in the Europa League away game against Real Sociedad in November.
Although Garnacho’s long-term goal is to start every single game for United, his current position as an impact player may be ideal for both United and Ten Hag. His youthful vigor and fearless demeanor are advantageous tools to have at the Reds’ disposal, whether they need to widen their margin of victory or need a dash of magic to help them escape a difficult circumstance.
For the time being, an impact sub role might be his best chance of garnering attention given his age, the competition he faces, and his capacity to affect a game. Although Ten Hag may hold him back for later use as an in-game weapon, his time to begin matches will come.