Young wingers, a thing of brilliance aren’t they? Tricky, wide-eyed with the raw talent to electrify a strike force. There’s something different and special about them.
Maybe it’s because they normally arrive as a breath of fresh air, or they just look so downright cool. In 2022, where football expects attackers to be both mobile and versatile, able to play in a number of different roles, seeing a winger drive at his man diminutively whilst a crowd roars just gives the old-school vibes of a simpler time in football.
Federico Chiesa burst onto the scene at Juventus two seasons ago and then shone as Italy won the Euros in 2021. He arrived in Turin at a time everyone was unhappy with Andrea Pirlo as manager and was probably the saving grace in a season that saw the former Juve midfielder sacked.
What benefitted him early on in his Juve career and at the Euros was a fear of the unknown. Chiesa arrived with a high price tag from Fiorentina but seemed utterly unbothered by the conjecture of playing for the old lady. The naivety of being a young winger is what makes them so exciting, they are yet to be chewed up and spat out by the many different dimensions a manager wants from them or let the pressure or expectancy of fans when they don’t produce the goods get into their heads.
To be a winger you have to constantly back yourself, a hint of arrogance remember Robert Pires? Look at Antony, he plays with a Brazilian swagger, an Arjen Robben type of one dimension, you know he’s going to take it on his left foot but you can’t stop it anyway. Remember Jack Grealish before his Manchester City days? A joy to watch, the man who made everything happen for Villa from the left.
The anticipatory eagerness of a youth prospect comes from the fact at that point the possibilities are infinite and they are yet to really experience football’s peaks and troughs.
Enter Alejandro Garnacho, United’s young winger who has been bubbling under in the youth team for some time with fans crying out for him to make it in the starting XI.
His early appearances in the team may have come at an opportune time with Jadon Sancho injured and irritating some quarters of the United fanbase by never really getting going in his Manchester United career. One thing Erik ten Hag is certainly capable of is using competition as a tool to motivate players. Tyrell Malacia’s energy and robust approach certainly coaxed Luke Shaw into getting back to a good run of form.
Similarly, this may be what happens with Sancho – a hungry, exciting player breathing down his neck might prove fruitful for everyone involved. A majestic performance like the one against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup is the type to get excited about, it has been much too rare of a sight to see a winger for Man United actually drive at a full-back with pace no less aging and tired Ashley Young.
It has been a breath of fresh air to have the Argentinian in this United team. This season the Red Devils have been good to watch when collectively all the cogs in the Ten Hag system have been whirring, when the sequences and patterns are executed well and the defence organised. In a team slightly bereft of attacking depth, Garnacho can emerge as a different option this season, a winger whose heat maps unabashedly resemble a winger who stays wide.
Some of the quotes from figures like Bruno Fernandes have been eye opening.
“At the beginning of the season he was not at his best, in the [pre-season] tour he didn’t have the best attitude that he should have had, and that’s why he didn’t get his chances until now,” the Portuguese midfielder said of Garnacho.
Ten Hag also commented on being unhappy with Garnacho and his attitude in the early days, but also mentioned how there has been a marked improvement in that regard.
Garnacho is still only 18 and it is a good sign that his temperament is being paid attention to so early – heaven knows the amount of young starlets that haven’t made it at Manchester United. At this current juncture it may be important to ensure he is getting into good habits and showing the right mentality more than anything else.
He is a kid from Madrid literally playing with Cristiano Ronaldo, posting Instagram photos saying he isn’t sure whether he is dreaming.
There is clearly hype around the youngster, but fans should also take a cautious and caring approach to hone his talent.
For now though, let’s just enjoy getting excited in the early days of Garnacho in this United team as a possible breakout star for Erik ten Hag.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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