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Chong joined Birmingham City for £1.5milllion on a permanent deal in September and it had felt like an oversight for Garnacho not to be given a chance on the pre-season tour, although it was suspected that decision was actually by design.
That was later confirmed by Bruno Fernandes and Ten Hag after Garnacho was finally given a chance, which he took in impressive fashion in matches against FC Sheriff and Real Sociedad in the Europa League and Aston Villa in the League Cup.
After Garnacho made his first start for the club in late October, Ten Hag revealed he ‘was not happy’ with the player at the start of the season and Fernandes eventually added in an interview a week later that ‘he didn’t have the best attitude on tour’.
That clarified why Garnacho hadn’t played, although that and concerns about his attitude had quickly been forgotten about, due to the player’s willingness to improve in training and his inspired performances on the pitch at just 18 years old.
In the space of 10 days in November, Garnacho scored the matchwinner against Real Sociedad, recorded two assists against Aston Villa and he scored a late, dramatic goal at Craven Cottage just before the break to ensure a 2-1 win versus Fulham.
Garnacho needed pace to create the chance and composure to finish it against Fulham and the goal was genuinely a superb winner, which announced the youngster as having the potential to become something special and well beyond the ordinary.
The academy product gets supporters on the edge of their seats and there has been tangible excitement on the terraces when he’s played at Old Trafford, with the crowd responding to Garnacho’s instinct of always wanting to create something..
Garnacho is raw, direct and his ceiling is unknown, which makes him worth watching. His emergence also couldn’t have come at a better time, with Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club and Jadon Sancho continuing to be unavailable for selection.
Anthony Martial has also been sidelined with injury for the majority of the season and Ten Hag’s attacking options are scarce, which means Garnacho is set to be involved in the first team for the rest of the campaign and rightly so, considering his ability.
United return to Premier League action against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night and it’s a compliment to Garnacho that Ten Hag will have to choose whether to start him or Antony, who was signed for €95m from Ajax in the summer.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Garnacho started in the League Cup last week, but Antony had only just returned from the World Cup and he replaced the latter in the second half, which seemed like a preparation for Nottingham Forest.
When fit and available, Rashford, Martial and Antony are almost guaranteed to be Ten Hag’s preferred front three, however, Garnacho is currently putting pressure on the latter, who has yet to sustain performances for a full 90 minutes this season.
Garnacho is giving competition for places when there otherwise wouldn’t have been any. Anthony Elanga is another option, of course, but he’s not scored since February and he looks like a player short of confidence in the final third, unlike Garnacho.