Ten Hag warns Garnacho over ‘new start’ as Man Utd U21 ‘also on his way’ to first team
Erik ten Hag wants Alejandro Garnacho to kick on and challenge for a regular starting spot after the 18-year-old committed his long-term future to Manchester United.
The talented winger arrived at Old Trafford from Atletico Madrid in 2020, in the last wave of international signings before the Brexit regulations changed.
Garnacho was named last season’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year after playing a key role in United’s FA Youth Cup triumph and went on to make his first-team debut in April.
The Argentina youth international did not appear on the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia after frustrating Ten Hag, but has since won the Dutchman over and has signed a new deal until 2028.
“First of all, I think he has the prize and it’s a prize,” the United manager said of Garnacho. “He also shows he can make the final step – not only in talent but also, he made it.
“But now it’s a new start, a restart, because now the expectations will be higher, the demands definitely will be higher.
“He is on his way, he is a strong character and that’s why he’s there in the moment on this level, and he did it by himself.
“But now is coming more work to go because the demands are higher, we expect more from him.
“But it’s great he made it because it tells we will give young players opportunities, but they have to deserve it.
“When I say ‘give’, translate it to ‘deserve’ and they have to deserve with their feet, they have to show it on the pitch and that means you have to invest a lot and deserve it by training performances, by performance in the under-21s, then wait for your moment and prove it again.
“For Alejandro, he is that step beyond but now the demands will be even more because he has now to compete for a starting XI position.
“So, every time is the same: you have to cross limits and every time you have to go in the next level.
“We go with him in that challenge but most important is the player has to do it.”
Ten Hag says he is well aware of Manchester United’s rich culture of developing youth talent, and picked out another U21 star who is “on his way” to the first team.
“I know the culture of Man United, I knew before, of course I was long employed in youth football, I met several times Man United in big tournaments in the Netherlands.
“In U15, Man United was always there, it’s the biggest tournament for U15 teams but in the past everyone knew and talked about Busby Babes and generation 92, Man United has a big history of youth development and in our talks last year that was one of the points we talked about.”
“Ajax was the same, as Man United, in developing young players, giving young players opportunities to work on their personality if they feel they are good persons and have a good life and can contribute in society but we want to develop [players into the first team], I think we are in that perspective, Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo is also on his way.
“There is a pathway to the first-team but they have to deserve it. We have structures in the academy, brilliant work, U21 and training into the first team but talent has to do it by itself.”
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