Alvaro Fernandez

Fernandez: I'm getting what I wanted

Friday 31 March 2023 09:56

Alvaro Fernandez is enjoying a ‘perfect’ loan spell at Preston North End, as he seeks to gain more and more senior experience in English football.

The Spanish full-back has played 34 times in all competitions for the Championship side, who currently sit 12th in the second tier and still harbour outside hopes of making this season’s play-offs.

Fernandez, who was awarded United’s Reserve Team Player of the Year prize at the end of 2021/22, has made a good impact during his time at Deepdale, with manager Ryan Lowe singling out his ability and maturity in challenging the experienced Robbie Brady – a former Reds Academy graduate himself – for the left-back position.

Alvaro, who turned 20 last week, says he has learned a lot from his time with North End and is pleased to be getting plenty of opportunities to play in one of Europe’s most challenging divisions.

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“The season’s gone quick. We’re into the last months now, with eight games left, but it’s been very good. I’m happy and taking lots of experience from it,” Fernandez told us recently, at PNE’s training ground in Euxton, near Chorley.

“I’m getting minutes and that’s what I wanted when I came here, so it’s perfect.”

Alvaro and his fellow Lilywhites are gearing up for the biggest game of their season this Saturday, as they host local rivals Blackpool at Deepdale in a 12:30 BST kick-off.

The clash with the Tangerines lights the blue touchpaper on what could be a key month for Lowe’s men, with away trips to high-flying Millwall and Sheffield United to come and another Lancashire grudge match at home to Blackburn Rovers also on the horizon.

Fernandez is relishing the challenge of constant first-team football and, with North End one of half-a-dozen sides chasing a place in the top six, he hopes his season can be extended a little further yet.

“We have seven games in one month, in April, so I like it when two games come quick,” he added.

“You have one game and, whether you lose or you win, you have to be focused on the next one in three days. I like that.

“We just need to keep going. Hopefully, I’ll play a few more times so I can say I’ve played 40 games in my first year in the Championship.

“It’s a good challenge. For the team, and me as well, we want to get to the play-offs, hopefully.”

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Fernandez first moved to United as a callow 17-year-old in 2020 and had to navigate a tricky situation off the pitch, as he sought to impress at his new club.

The country was in the midst of the Covid pandemic and he couldn’t speak the language or regularly travel back to Spain to visit his family.

It’s clear this period greatly helped Fernandez to acclimatise to his new surroundings, though, and his season-long spell at PNE – although only a short drive away from Manchester – will only improve the adaptation further.

“At the beginning, when I came here to England, I was in digs with an English family. It was very good from them, that they helped me start to speak English. You always have to learn something new, but now I can speak it better!

“The first year I could only go back at Christmas and summer, so it was hard to come to a new place and a new culture, with a new football team as well. It was hard, but the people have always been good to me in England.”

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Fernandez began his footballing journey at Racing de Ferrol, in the Galician city where he was born and raised, before spending five years in Deportivo La Coruna’s academy.

United picked him up from Real Madrid, where he played between 2017 and 2020. In the Spanish capital, he looked up to first-team players Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, who had established themselves as club legends by winning four Champions League titles.

The target for Alvaro, though, was the English top-flight and he hopes one day to represent the Reds’ senior side, having already made the matchday squad four times under Ralf Rangnick at the end of the 2021/22 season.

“It was always a dream of mine to play in the Premier League and Manchester United is a big team in the Premier League and across the world,” Alvaro concluded.

“It was always a challenge and a dream to play there and that’s why I’m fighting to be there.”

You can read the full, in-depth interview with Alvaro Fernandez in the May 2023 edition of Inside United, which is on sale from 11 April.