Alejandro Garnacho: One of the best teenagers, one of the worst pudding-bowl haircuts

John Nicholson

Alejandro Garnacho is tearing up the Premier League at just 18. Our Johnny really likes the look of him; he is proper.


Who’s this then?
Alejandro Garnacho Ferreyra is a 5’11” 18-year-old, Madrid-born winger who currently plays for Manchester United and qualifies to play for both Spain and Argentina.

After playing for Getafe as a kid, he joined Atlético Madrid’s youth system in 2015 aged just 11. As a stand-out youngster, by the time he was 16 – in October 2020 – Manchester United’s academy people arrived in Madrid, took £420,000 out of the nearest cashpoint and took the boy to Old Trafford, giving him a professional contract the following year as he helped the club win the Youth Cup and bagged the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year in 2021/22.

He played 31 times for the U-18s, scored 16 goals and made eight assists. Last season he made just two first-team appearances but this season it’s been an entirely different story, with him making 23. And he’s been impressive in pretty much every game, often coming on in the second half as a substitute.

He’s scored three goals so far this season and notched five assists too.

Internationally he’s played three games for Spain’s U-18 and four for Argentina’s U-20 side, for whom he’s scored four times. Who would you rather play for? My money is on the sky blue and white.


Why the love?
Playing on the left, but being at least notionally right-footed, he’s already spoken about how he analyses the full-backs to spot weaknesses and you can really see that in his play. He’s the sort of winger who gives defenders the old twisted blood syndrome, turning them inside and out.

United has such a long history of fantastic 11s and 7s (even though he plays wearing #49) going back decades, it’s no surprise to see another developing right before our eyes. 18 is such a young age to make your breakthrough on the highest stage but he shows zero signs of lacking in confidence and zero signs of being overawed, quite the opposite.

His first instinct is to run at the defence with the ball and that’s just a thrilling thing to witness. Tactics are important but we overrate them in analysing play in 2023, if only because the structure of the team shifts during a game, with some players having licence to do whatever they want, wherever they want to do it.

It’s a cliche that football is a simple game, but it really is and Garnacho reminds us of that every time he plays. Get the ball wide, have a winger that can beat his man and cross for a centre-forward to score, well, it really doesn’t get better than that.

He can go wide to the line, or he can cut in on his right with real pace to shoot with either foot. He has that wonderful seemingly innate talent of showing the defender the ball, sucking him in, then knocking it past him, leaving him in his wake. And he’s an excellent chopper-backer where he advances to the goal on the left, gets the defender close, then chops it back unexpectedly, with the defender committed, to create space to shoot. He’s already scored plenty of those sorts of goals.

He can play on the right, and has done so effectively, but he’s clearly finding an irresistible space in United’s team on the left. Physically, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone and not a whole lot of bone either, despite his 5’ 11” frame. But that thickening and broadening will come with age.

I wouldn’t bet against him turning into one of those typical Argentinean hard men. He’s got that high-cheek-boned, bad ass street fighter look to him. Right now, when up against the more beastly big boys, he can get what Glenn Hoddle used to call ‘out-physicaled’. However, he can usually rely on his ball control and his speed to get around those problems and that’s been plenty of that to tear apart defences.

There is a fearless quality to his football that is surely part of his youthful age, with absolutely no hesitancy in taking on his opponents and trying to beat them. In that, United fans will see echoes of many past players who only ever played on the front foot.

He’s already created the definitive Garnacho goal. Take the ball on the left midway through the opposition half, burn past the defender into the box, cut in onto his right to fire past the keeper. Unstoppable.


Three great moments

I don’t know who that defender that he out-runs is, but the poor sod is, in football parlance, blowing bubbles by the end.

He shot the Sheriff.

Everything that is great about him, right here.


Future days
With the kid playing so well, naturally there is much sniffing of the Garnacho air by clubs all over Europe, including Real Madrid.

However, United will almost certainly use their vast resources to blow all of them out of the water when it comes to a new contract. His current one is up in 2024 with the option of an extra year. United say they are close to a deal taking him up to 2028 at the club which sounds a long way off but is only five years, when the eight-year deal is becoming more common, at Chelsea anyway.

But by then he’ll still only be 23. He’s rejected a £20k per week offer, but they’ve apparently come back with a massive wardrobe full of cash, linked to performances and development. Seems fair enough. Young players do sometimes produce all their best form early on in their career and then go downhill by their mid-20s, or suffer repeated injuries.

Hopefully, he’ll stop copying the CR7 goal celebration. It was shite the first time around, such as it was, we don’t need to keep seeing it.

Alejandro Garnacho has to be one of the best teenagers in world football right now – albeit with one of the worst pudding bowl haircuts – and he may be coming to the fore just as United regain some of their best form for a decade or more. Then again, that might, at least in part, be down to him.