Bruno Fernandes was delighted with Alejandro Garnacho’s progress but warned the Manchester United teenager that he cannot relax if he wants to develop his potential.
One year and two days after his starring role in the club’s FA Cup Youth Cup triumph against Nottingham Forest, the 18-year-old was back in scoring form at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Garnacho had been out for two months with an ankle injury and returned strongly against Wolves, with the substitute scoring a fine late goal against Stretford End to wrap up a 2-0 win.
Captain Fernandes passed through the Argentine to score and hopes the rising talent can “score a lot more until the end of the season.”
“Obviously, we know that Garna can change games,” said the Portuguese midfielder. “He plays with rhythm, he can play players one on one.
“But he’s still developing himself, so we don’t have to put as much pressure on him because he’s still a little kid.
“He can do great things, but in the future he has to do much better than he actually is doing because he has more than the ability to be even better than he really is (right now).
“He’s been doing amazing in the first season he’s been playing in the Premier League, with more minutes, with more consistency. He is doing very well, but we all know that he can do much more for us.
Garnacho recently signed a new contract that keeps him at Old Trafford until 2028 after impressing in his first full season as a first-team player.
He has also gained the trust of Erik ten Hag, who irritated him during preseason, with Fernandes saying he “didn’t have the best attitude” during that period.
“That message was from the manager, it was not mine,” Fernandes said. “I just heard what the manager said.
“What I have to say to Garnacho, I tell him in the training field, when we are eating, in the training field or wherever.
“If you want to hear, listen. If not, it doesn’t, but I try to help.
“I think he did an interview talking about me trying to help him many times, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“But obviously, like I said, he’s still young, and I don’t want to give too many compliments because you know when you’re young, you get too many compliments, you can relax a little bit and everything.
“We need this Alejandro to come in and score goals, make assists, come back to win balls, everything.
“But I think if I wasn’t doing what I had to do, I wouldn’t be playing.
“At the beginning of the season, the coach didn’t give him any opportunities because he thought he wasn’t being the best, and now he’s getting his chances.
“He’s been playing a lot this season because he’s training well, he’s doing what he has to do and he’s getting his rewards, and the team is getting the rewards as well, and that’s the most important thing.”
Garnacho’s adaptation from youth football to the top end has also impressed Fernandes, saying his teammate is reaping the rewards of his hard work.
“I think he’s doing very well and he’s training all the time with us, so that makes him more prepared for the games,” he said. “But mentally he is also much better because I think he understood what it takes to be a professional player.
“He’s doing that, taking that and also working a lot in the gym with the trainers, so he’s getting his rewards.
“He’s getting his rewards because he’s training well because if he wasn’t he wouldn’t even be playing, I’m pretty sure.”
Garnacho’s return is a welcome boost for United with three Premier League games remaining in the race for the top four before the FA Cup final against Manchester City.
“We know that it will be difficult to finish in the top four, but it depends on ourselves and everything is in our hands, so we have to do our job,” added Fernandes.
“I’m not worried about Liverpool, I’m worried about us doing our job because it’s about ourselves.
“As I said, if we do our job correctly, if we win our games, we’ll be in the Champions League, so we don’t have to look at the table or look at other teams.”