Opinion: Garnacho fits the United tradition perfectly

Friday 28 April 2023 13:59

It only took a few, brief glimpses of Alejandro Garnacho's whirlwind talent to know that here was someone born to grace Old Trafford. To re-emphasise Manchester United's long, deep, romantic links to youth and attacking football.

The news that the Madrid-born, Argentina-representing youngster has committed his long-term future to the club will delight and excite Reds in equal measure, for the teenager is one of those rare pearls that seems to unite the entire fanbase.
Kids love him. Grandparents too. Show non-football fans a few clips of Garnacho ripping down the wing and even they'll have little trouble understanding why the 18-year-old has created a hell of a fuss this season.
For me, a lot of the many things people like about United – and football in general – are all present in Garnacho.
Every Garnacho goal and assist Video

Every Garnacho goal and assist

Enjoy watching all of Alejandro Garnacho's nine goal involvements for the first team so far...

When you pay for a ticket to Old Trafford, or turn on your TV to watch a match, what are you paying for?
There are a million answers, but once the game begins, you start to find out what the people around you expect. They want entertainment, more than anything.
I imagine it's quite a burden, if you're a player. 75,000 people flashing their beady eyes at you, asking you to please them? A tough gig.
Some can deal with it. Some can't. And a very rare breed of individual seems inspired by it. Garnacho, like George Best and Cristiano Ronaldo before him, seems one of those.
Give me the ball; let me show you what I can do. Most great United wingers have had that quality down the years, and if there's one thing our fans love, it's wingers.
Whatever generation you're from, you'll have your favourites. Jimmy Delaney and Charlie Mitten from the 1940s. Johnny Berry and David Pegg in the famous Busby Babes team. Best in the 60s. Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill in Tommy Docherty's riotous 1970s side. You can go on and on, through Kanchelskis and Giggs, right up to Ronaldo and beyond. To Rashford.
You get an increased focus on tactics nowadays. Games can be won and lost like chess matches – one clever adjustment can break a contest open, leading journalists and fans to gush over the genius of the manager that tweaked his system this way or that way.
But players, not managers, are what illuminate the game. And ones like Garnacho tap into something more primal. If Alejandro dribbles, plays a one-two with Christian Eriksen and runs past several players at warp speed – like he did before that winner at Fulham – no system in the world can compensate.
Garnacho's game is a very sophisticated version of the style we all have a crack at as children. And we can all relate to what he does: get it, run, make something happen. Not that we can replicate it, of course.
All The Angles: Garnacho v Fulham Video

All The Angles: Garnacho v Fulham

All The Angles | Alejandro Garnacho’s winning goal at Fulham in 2022 was superb from every single view…

Do we just want safe football, full of carefully managed transitions, tactical fouls, and players following rote instructions and orchestrated patterns of play? Players hiding their talent in the service of secure possession and compact defending?
Maybe we do; it can produce undeniably beautiful passages. But there has to be a place for free expression, especially when talents like Garnacho come along.
There's a lot to be said for pace, imagination and the unexpected, and that's what Garnacho provides, without hesitation, every time he steps on the field with United. The promise of something spontaneous, surprising and alive being plucked out of thin air.
It's why the Viva Ronaldo chant has already been adapted to Viva Garnacho: because Alejandro excites people; because he rekindles the innocent enthusiasm we all felt for football as children; because he does what we think all United players should: excite and entertain.
Our lives have already been brightened by his arrival into the first team and, with any luck, there is plenty more to come over the next few years.
Only players like Duncan Edwards, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Norman Whiteside were having a bigger impact for United at such a young age. Garnacho is keeping exalted company, in that respect. 
But whatever he achieves in the future – and the breadth and scope of his career will depend on luck, fortitude and graft – we'll forever be richer for having seen the dazzling way he has picked up the United tradition and ran with it.