Alejandro Garnacho – a star in the making?
“I don’t know if it’s real or if I’m dreaming.”
That was 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho’s reaction after making his full Manchester United debut against Sheriff Tiraspol last week.
The teenager received a standing ovation from the majority of those inside Old Trafford when he was substituted late on in the 3-0 win. Seven days later, the United fans who travelled to watch their side face Real Sociedad will find it even more difficult to hide their excitement.
Although Garnacho’s match-winning goal in San Sebastian was not enough for United to win their Europa League group, the young Argentine produced another promising performance on his second senior start – against much better opposition.
His expert control and fine finish in the 17th minute illustrated his quality in the final third, while his confidence in possession, willingness to drive at opponents and unpredictable skills gave United a different dimension going forward.
“I am really happy and I hope he can keep it going,” Ten Hag said of Garnacho, who is now the club’s youngest non-English goalscorer in European competition.
He might be a raw talent, but the early signs suggest he has the potential to become a world-class winger. Under the guidance of Ten Hag, that outcome is a distinct possibility.
Vieira impresses but Tomiyasu adds to injury woes
Takehiro Tomiyasu pulled his shirt up over his head in frustration. The Japanese full-back had been a late substitute for Arsenal in a tetchy affair against Zurich but he would not last long on the pitch, replaced by Cedric Soares due to a muscle injury which adds to the growing concerns now facing manager Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal are top of the Premier League pile and they clung on to top spot in the Europa League, but his squad is now being stretched. For much of this opening chunk of the season the Spaniard has had a starting XI you could almost read out from memory, but having made seven alterations ahead of a crucial London derby on Sunday, he is left again picking up the walking wounded for Chelsea.
The return of Bukayo Saka for a second-half cameo was as welcome as it was necessary, given how Arsenal toiled and failed to put an obdurate but limited Zurich to bed. Tierney’s goal was a thing of beauty and worthy of winning any match and it is the avoidance of two additional games in a play-off that will delight Arteta the most.
Fabio Vieira impressed in the opening period, and arguably should have added to Arsenal’s lead, with his three shots yielding a game-leading xG of 0.35. He also completed three key passes and had five touches in the Zurich box.
Defensively he won the ball three times, once of which came in the final third. The Portuguese was involved in eight of the Gunners’ attempts tonight (4 shots, 4 chances created). It was an all-action display which will give Arteta hope that the depth is there to compete on multiple fronts once the season resumes after the World Cup.
Special night for West Ham’s academy
There was literally nothing to play for in Bucharest on Thursday night, for West Ham nor FCSB.
The Hammers were assured of first, while the hosts could do no better than last.
But David Moyes’ inclusion of two teenage debutants, Divin Mubama and Oliver Scarles, injected some much-needed life into the game.
The pure ecstasy on the face of 18-year-old Mubama when his deflected header hit the back of the net painted a picture of just how much it meant for him to score for his boyhood club. Even if UEFA did later take it away, awarding it as an own-goal.
The striker, who joined the club as a left-back aged eight, was not alone in impressing.
Sixteen-year-old Scarles also stood out with his performance at left-wing back and nearly set up Mubama for a goal that truly would have been created in east London.
He had an insatiable desire to work for the team and possesses a wicked left foot. Scarles posed a constant threat at left wing-back and was a whisker away from scoring himself.
With the five substitutes that were brought on, West Ham had nine academy graduates involved against FCSB. The future looks bright for the Hammers.
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