Alejandro Garnacho's response to Erik ten Hag could change Manchester United's transfer plans

Alejandro Garnacho crouches down to pose with the FA Cup on the Wembley pitch.
-Credit: (Image: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images.)

Alejandro Garnacho's opener in Manchester United's 2-1 win over rivals Manchester City in Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley marked a landmark moment in his blossoming career.

Pouncing on a defensive mix-up, the 19-year-old nipped in to score his 10th goal of the campaign. It meant he finished the season with double the number of goals he managed in his first full season as a United regular in 2022/23.

The Argentine has established himself as a staple in Erik ten Hag's plans at Old Trafford over the past 12 months, with Saturday's triumph over City marking his 39th consecutive start in all competitions. That is a tremendous achievement for a player who does not turn 20 until July 1.

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Garnacho was introduced to the first team more frequently by Ten Hag in 2022/23, resulting in him making 34 appearances in all competitions. Many of those, however, were via the bench.

He ended that campaign with five goals and four assists. Three of those goals and all four assists were recorded when he had stepped off the bench, tasked with making a positive impact.

The role of an impact substitute was one Garnacho was threatening to outgrow, resulting in more and more pressure being put on Ten Hag's shoulders to turn him into a regular starter. It was a challenge the Dutchman set for the youngster towards the end of the campaign.

Speaking after United's 2-0 win over Wolves in May 2023, in which Garnacho had come off the bench and scored, Ten Hag said: "Hopefully he can progress so quickly he can compete for a starting XI position because that is his next challenge. He is showing when you score some winners, Fulham, the assist against City and now the second goal, he is showing some things.

"Also, sometimes he lacks defensive transition and pressing. He has to step up, when you are going into an action or keep the ball, so decisions. But when you see all over, he is a huge talent and he is brave."

After starting United's opening two Premier League games this season, the youngster lost his place and did not start again in the league until United's 1-0 win at Fulham on November 4. That marked the beginning of 28 consecutive starts in the league.

Alejandro Garnacho tugs at the Manchester United badge on his shirt after scoring against Manchester City at Wembley.
Alejandro Garnacho enjoyed an excellent 2023/24 campaign. -Credit:Alex Pantling/Getty Images.

Initially, the youngster was playing out on the left-hand side, moving ahead of Marcus Rashford in the pecking order. However, Ten Hag made the decision to move him across to the right wing for the 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Boxing Day and Garnacho scored two goals.

Garnacho started to switch between the right and the left, regularly causing trouble for opposing full-backs. Amad's run of three consecutive starts at the end of the Premier League season meant the Argentine started on the left, but he switched back to the right for the FA Cup final, allowing Rashford to come back into the team and start on the left.

With United's preference to keep Rashford this summer, Garnacho could be primed to remain on the right, locking Antony out of the starting XI. United plan to strengthen their attack this summer and Crystal Palace ace Michael Olise has been consistently linked with a move to Old Trafford over the last few months.

Olise enjoyed an impressive campaign this term, scoring 10 goals and registering six assists in just 19 appearances, making him an attractive option. However, if United were to swoop for him this summer, he would make the switch to Old Trafford with the ambition of starting week in, week out.

However, Garnacho's sharp rise this season means he will expect to remain a regular starter. He is on United's list of untouchables and the club has him at the centre of their plans for the future.

Presuming Rashford stays and Garnacho continues to weave his magic on the right, signing Olise should not be a leading priority. Garnacho has well and truly answered Ten Hag's call.