Garnacho receives Argentina call-up
Academy winger Alejandro Garnacho is thrilled to be called up to the Argentinian national team set-up for the first time this month.
The 17-year-old has enjoyed an excellent season of development at Manchester United, playing a key part in our run to the FA Youth Cup final and the UEFA Youth League last 16, as well as gaining regular game time in the U18 Premier League and Premier League 2.
Garnacho was born in Madrid to a Spanish father and Argentinian mother, and has supported both countries on the international stage from a young age, as well as proudly representing Spain's Under-18s.
Nick Cox, Head of Academy, explained to us how beneficial experiences such as these can be to a young player's development.
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“We have to celebrate all of the boys that get international recognition at youth level and at senior level,” Cox said.
“It’s a wonderful moment in a boy’s life to represent their country or to play international football and it’s a brilliant learning opportunity. There’s stuff that comes from international football that the Academy can’t offer, the nature of the competition, the types of opposition, the places you might go in the world, so it’s a wonderful complementing experience to the Academy programme.
“We’ve always been aware of Alejandro’s dual nationality and it is lovely for him to have two wonderful football nations interested in his talent.
“I know he’s proud of his heritage. For us, we’re just really proud that there’s a young boy that’s developing with us that has reached a lovely moment in his career which is selection for a senior side.”
Garnacho is one of several Academy players to receive significant international recognition this season. While Dylan Levitt (Wales) and Ethan Galbraith (Northern Ireland) have been involved with their nations regularly for some time, Hannibal (Tunisia) and Zidane Iqbal (Iraq) are also now enjoying senior game time for their countries.
In January, Manchester-born Iqbal explained to us his decision to represent Iraq, the country of his mother’s birth, and outlined his excitement at joining up with the Lions of Mesopotamia. Later that month, he made two appearances in key FIFA World Cup qualifiers. He now joins up with Iraq again as they take on the UAE (24 March) and Syria (29 March) in World Cup qualifiers.
Hannibal, meanwhile, now trains regularly for the first team but still features in Under-23s games. The 19-year-old played a key role as Tunisia reached the FIFA Arab Cup final at the end of 2021 before featuring at the Africa Cup of Nations, too. He's once again with the squad as they prepare for two games against Mali on 25 March and 29 March.
“For those two lads [Iqbal and Hannibal], playing in really high-level competitions, we’re ever so proud,” Nick Cox said.
“They’ve gone into really competitive environments on the international arena, and we are always supportive and encouraging of our young players playing international football because international football brings experiences and opportunities that you don’t get from domestic football.
“Naturally, when the boys are away playing for their countries, we’re in touch, we’re in contact, we’re trying to find streams to watch the games, we’re making sure we can support them from a distance wherever possible.”
Not only is a senior international call-up a major personal achievement, the impact of the experience rubs off on everyone at the Academy, from proud coaches and backroom staff to fellow players.
“When they return, it’s interesting to see the differences in their behaviours as a result of that experience, and the stories that they then tell to their mates,” Cox continued.
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“Every international window now, this place is starting to feel a little bit like a ghost town because so many of our boys are away with the younger age groups. We’re seeing boys represent countries all across Europe from the age of 15-16 upwards. And that’s really nice to see. We’re proud of the way they represent their countries, but we’re also proud of the way they represent Manchester United while they’re with their countries.
“We’re working with naturally competitive boys so they’re all looking at what each other are up to and trying to follow suit. So international recognition is something that all of our boys, I think, aspire to achieve.
“But more importantly for us, what we’re really proud of is the diversity of our group of young players. We love the fact that we’ve got boys from different backgrounds, cultures and countries, and that, yes we’re always trying to help young players understand how to be a Manchester United person and how to represent our football club, but actually we want them to bring their own individual personality and be an authentic version of themselves. So we love the fact that our boys are across the world playing football, coming back with experiences to kind of help each other to develop.”
As well as senior call-ups, many Academy players will represent their countries at youth level over the break, including seven with England. Head here for more information.
YOUNG REDS ON INTERNATIONAL DUTY
Alejandro Garnacho (Argentina)
Zidane Iqbal (Iraq)
Anthony Elanga (Sweden)
Facundo Pellistri (Uruguay)
Dylan Levitt (Wales)
Matej Kovar (Czech Republic U21)
James Garner (England U21)
Ethan Galbraith (Northern Ireland U21)
Martin Svidersky (Slovakia U21)
Ondrej Mastny (Czech Republic U20)
Radek Vitek (Czech Republic U19)
Isak Hansen-Aaroean (Norway U19)
Alvaro Fernandez (Spain U19)
Dan Gore, Sam Mather, and Shola Shoretire (England U18)
Habeeb Ogunneye, Tyler Fredricson, and Kobbie Mainoo (England U17)
Louis Jackson (Scotland U17)