Alejandro Garnacho’s Man United ‘attitude’ warnings give Erik ten Hag new Cristiano Ronaldo fear

The permanent expulsion of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in November 2022 was hailed as a triumph for Erik ten Hag’s new strategy.

After Ronaldo went wild in his all-out interview with Piers Morgan, few thought Ten Hag would back down over a club legend, even though he made his own bed by criticizing the Glazers. However, after only a few months in office, United held strong, and the Dutchman emerged looking more formidable than before.

However, a hidden struggle was starting to emerge as United’s head coach was relishing his victory. In the absence of his idol, Alejandro Garnacho was becoming more and more prominent, which left Ten Hag with challenging questions to respond to.

The manager chose Garnacho for the first team during his first preseason tour, but he missed two team meetings and did not play. To the dismay of the fans, this dashed any hope for the winger in Asia.

First impressions do matter, despite United’s insistence that they had moved past any concerns about their attitude, their public behavior suggested otherwise. Garnacho was starting to show promise in October and November of that year, but after a strong showing, soon-to-be captain Bruno Fernandes called him out.

“He knows we expect a lot from him. He wasn’t at his best at the beginning of the season,” he explained.

“On the tour, he didn’t have the best attitude that he should have, but now he’s training better and getting his chances. He’s deserving of his chances.”

Ten Hag continued in an interview with Sky Sports after Garnacho’s two assists against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup: “He still has things to learn but quite obviously we are happy with his development and he can contribute to the team. It depends on his approach, his attitude.

“When he keeps working then yes, it is possible [for him to play more]. He wants to improve every day. He has to do the right things in his lifestyle. He has the capability.”

Garnacho persevered and in April 2023 received an offer for a new, long-term contract. On the adolescent’s most important day, Ten Hag spoke movingly in front of the child’s family at Carrington.

The Dutchman emphasized throughout the speech that Garnacho needed to keep moving forward in the hopes that this new deal would motivate him to achieve greatness. With Ronaldo clearly out of the picture, supporters hoped the Argentine would inherit both the famous number seven shirt and his chant.

But this was not to be; Mason Mount received the go-ahead, and Garnacho had to make do with the meek promotion to 17. When this season started, the 19-year-old was handed a bit-part role, which raised suspicions that Ten Hag wasn’t too fond of the forward again—especially because Antony was always being selected ahead of him.

However, late November would mark a turning point and maybe the beginning of a power shift in the player-coach dynamic. Garnacho scored not just the season’s best goal but also a contender for goal of the century with his incredible bicycle kick that put Everton behind 3-0.

Ten Hag later stated that his young winger had the potential to be very good, but he insisted that consistency was still crucial. However, as Garnacho’s stock increased and the United manager’s started to decline, such statements might have started to go unheard.

Garnacho, along with Rasmus Hojlund and Kobbie Mainoo, has been a fan favorite and is being heralded as United’s future while Ten Hag has been fielding doubts regarding his job security. It appears more and more that the boss of today is not a part of this future.

At last, we arrive at Saturday night’s events, which mark a significant turning point for both sides. Before unliking them, Garnacho ‘liked’ two tweets from prominent United supporter Mark Goldbridge that criticized Ten Hag for replacing him against Bournemouth.

Although Ten Hag’s future at Old Trafford is uncertain, this raises suspicions about him despite United’s claim that the situation has been resolved. Although, sixteen months prior, Ten Hag commanded respect and authority, he cannot allow himself to become embroiled in a power battle with ‘CR7 2.0’.

Few believe that Garnacho has been the problem this season and the sharks are now circling Ten Hag. He must now hope to keep this incident in-house because this time if it is a choice between the player and coach, it will almost certainly be the player who wins.

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