Man United fans hope Garnacho is their next superstar
Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho, right, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the English League Cup third-round football match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, September 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — At a time when Manchester United is short on wingers, Alejandro Garnacho's first goal of the season sparked some wild celebrations at Old Trafford.

At the age of 19 and having only made 14 starts, Garnacho has already got United excited that he will become one of the club's next stars.

Erik ten Hag, however, is handling him with caution.

“You have seen at the start of the season we played him, (but) his contribution was not good enough," the United manager said after his team's 3-0 win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday in the English League Cup.

Garnacho's performance will likely strengthen calls for him to be given more opportunities. Especially at a time when Ten Hag has so few options in attack in the absence of wingers Antony and Jadon Sancho.

Brazil international Antony is on leave while he addresses allegations of domestic abuse and Sancho is training away from the first team squad because of a “discipline issue.” He claimed on social media that he had been made a “scapegoat” when cut from the team for the recent match against Arsenal.

Garnacho is Argentine by nationality, but was born in Madrid and developed through United's academy, which produced icons like George Best, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

There is often excitement built up around the club's latest graduates and Garnacho's game-changing qualities have been evident in flashes since he made his debut in two seasons ago, scoring six goals in that time.

He scored a late winner against Fulham in the Premier League last year and sent fans into a frenzy with what appeared to be another goal to give United a 2-1 lead at Arsenal last month. That strike was ruled out by video review and United went on to lose 3-1, but it was further evidence of his ability to come up with clutch moments.

Which is why some have been so frustrated with his lack of game time when the team has endured a difficult start to the season, losing four of five games before back-to-back wins against Burnley and Palace over the past week.

Tuesday was only Garnacho's third start of the season and Ten Hag said he needed to see more from the teenager if he is to play more often.

“He has to learn when he does his job in defending he will always have his moment and he will always be decisive because he has great qualities,” the Dutch coach said. “But I think it is quite normal for a player of his age that there is space for a lot of improvement. Everyone likes him, the fans like him, the team likes him, I like him, but we also have to demand from him and push him because he can act on a very high level but he has to show it every day.”

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