Erik ten Hag highlighted Alejandro Garnacho’s bravery, maturity and confidence after the Manchester United teenager made a goalscoring return after a two-month injury lay-off.
The nascent 18-year-old talent, who recently signed a new deal until 2028, received an excellent reception on his first appearance since sustaining an ankle injury against Southampton on March 12.
Garnacho was brought on in the 82nd minute and scored with a stoppage-time strike off the post in front of the Stretford End to wrap up a 2-0 victory against Wolves.
Ten Hag was happy with all his introductions after a few weeks when he said the “subs were bad”, but the Argentinian took the headlines after United got their top-four tilt back on track.
“Garna, of course, scored a great goal,” the United boss said. “He came in, he did I think almost everything good and then he scored a goal.
“That will give him belief and that is good for us for the rest of the season that he is back. It’ll give him confidence and he can have an impact.
“He is showing when you score some winners, like Fulham, assist against City, for instance. Now the second goal, he is showing some things.
“Also sometimes he lacks defensive transition, in pressing, he has to step up in such things. Also, when you are going into an action or keep the ball, so decisions.
“But I think when you see it all over, yeah, he is a huge talent and he’s brave.”
Garnacho arrived from Atletico Madrid in 2020 and was last season’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year having played a key role in United’s FA Youth Cup triumph.
The Argentina youth international frustrated Ten Hag during pre-season but has since won the Dutchman over, making 30 first-team appearances so far this campaign.
A step in the right direction! Proud that I could lead my children out at Old Trafford ❤️🔴 pic.twitter.com/dcBX70YZli
— Bruno Fernandes (@B_Fernandes8) May 13, 2023
“One of the aspects from the biggest talent is that they are mature,” the United boss said. “First, they take responsibility and, second, they are mature.
“To bring in their skills, they have belief that they can dominate opponents and I think once again he did it.
“He has a big impact in many games either when starting or coming on, he’s ready, straight into the game and that is so important for the squad you can bring such players.
“I am happy that you can bring young players and hopefully he will progress so quickly that he can compete for a starting XI position because that is his next challenge.”
Garnacho’s strike was United’s 100th goal of the season in all competitions and complemented Anthony Martial’s opener in a 25th Old Trafford victory of the campaign.
The win was an important response to defeats at Brighton and West Ham, which had allowed Liverpool to close the gap in the race for Champions League qualification.
“You have to deal (with setbacks),” Ten Hag said, “Everyone told me in United it is never going in the easy way, we go the difficult way.
“I think the team was ready for this battle, for this fight.
“Once again, we make the goalie of the opponent the man of the match, so we could have made life easier if we score the second goal early on.
“But we have the points, we are happy with that and we move on.”
Wolves failed to muster a shot on target as their poor away form continued, leaving boss Julen Lopetegui frustrated.
“Obviously, the result was not good for us, but we tried to compete with them,” said the Spaniard, who praised goalkeeper Dan Bentley after making an impressive Premier League debut.
“In the context of the match, the first half, we suffered one goal in one mistake that we had and they didn’t have any more chances.
“In the second half, we take a risk, we dominate the game and had situations when we could have done better.
“In the end, it was a pity, we tried, but, in the end, they deserved to win.”