Amid Manchester United’s terrible campaign, one player has shone as a beacon of hope for the future, Alejandro Garnacho.

The teenager made his second ever first team appearance at the weekend, coming on for the final 12 minutes of Manchester United’s defeat to Crystal Palace.

This followed his debut against Chelsea late last month, where he was a stoppage time substitute. This time he did get to touch the ball, and came close to converting a cross for an equaliser minutes after coming on.

Garnacho is only 17-years-old and is already featuring for Manchester United’s first team. This has been a season of individual progress for him.

Manchester United v Nottingham Forest: FA Youth Cup Final
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Dream season

Reflecting on the season just gone, Garnacho says he still can’t believe the progress he has made over the past 12 months at the club.

Garnacho began the season in Manchester United’s under-18s, watching several players who he featured alongside last season, step up to the under-23s.

The assessment was that as one of the younger players, Garnacho could benefit from the extra time with the 18s, and he began to play a more prominent role.

Rather than play a supporting role to Charlie McNeill, Garnacho became the under-18s main man, developed extra confidence, and was rewarded with an under-23 call before Christmas, scoring twice in a win over Blackburn.

A spectacular bicycle kick in the Youth Cup in December at Old Trafford was a sign Garnacho was ready for the big stage, and 2022 got even better.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United - Premier League
Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Garnacho continued to flourish, now outshining McNeill in the FA Youth Cup, scoring in every match he played at Old Trafford in the competition. He ended the tournament with seven goals in six games, including a brace in the final in front of a packed stadium.

He led the first United team to win the tournament since 2011, by which time he had already made his first team debut and trained consistently with Ralf Rangnick’s side.

Garnacho was also called into the Argentina international squad in March, switching allegiance having previously been a Spain under-18 international. He was able to train alongside Lionel Messi.

His real dream was accomplished alongside his long-time idol Cristiano Ronaldo, who even gifted him his match ball after a hat-trick against Norwich. Garnacho got to share the pitch with him on his debut against Chelsea.

There will be more to come from Garnacho, he hopes to catch the eye of new boss Erik ten Hag, who watched him against Palace on Sunday. A chance potentially awaits in pre-season.

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