It’s been a busy few months at Manchester United with a fresh set of arrivals in the summer transfer window and a new season kicking off. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finds himself with the most competitive squad since the start of his reign, strengthened by world class arrivals such as Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, it’s not just the first team that has looked stronger as of late, with 18-year-old Alvaro Fernandez impressing in United’s U23 squad. The young Spanish defender has arguably been the standout player in the youth setup in the last few months.
Fernandez who was signed from Real Madrid in 2020, has already scored two goals this season and has caught the eye of Solskjaer. Fernandez was recently seen training with the First Team in one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s first training sessions with United since returning. The youngster took to social media to express his excitement to be learning off the best, the pair sharing a connection in the sense they both spent time at Madrid.
However, it was Fernandez’s lack of assurance over opportunities and a desire to prove himself in the Premier League that led him to Manchester, and it seems the gamble is paying off for him.
The Spaniard spent a small portion of time in the U18s before graduating to the U23s, and the recent callup to First Team training is indicative of the club’s appreciation of the player. It’s another testament to the club’s ability to guide and integrate youth players with potential, with Fernandez being able to adapt to the English game relatively quickly.
The progress of the left-back has been described as dizzying, and this is in spite of a coronavirus setback over Christmas. The full-back is a very technical player with a massive attacking threat, which is partly why he can secure several goals and assists from left-back.
Fernandez is the kind of player that would get the Old Trafford faithful off their seats with bombing runs forwards, not too dissimilar to Luke Shaw.
Now it looks like Fernandez is back up to full fitness and progressing even further, although it’s unlikely that the promotion to First Team training is on a permanent basis for the time being. Fernandez will likely have ambitions to feature for the First Team within the next few seasons though, his ambition justified by his performances.
While it would be very difficult to break in and feature as a starter consistently, it’s not beyond possibility that there could be an opportunity as a backup left-back.
Obviously, Luke Shaw is the established starter at left-back, after an incredible last 18 months that was capped by a goal in the Euro 2020 final. On the contrast, the backup slot for this position isn’t as nailed on, as Alex Telles has failed to properly establish himself as a United player for a myriad of reasons.
The Brazilian is currently out injured, and with Brandon Williams now on loan to Norwich for the season, United could end up being short in the fullback position if Telles can’t stay fit consistently. This could then open a pathway for a senior callup for young Fernandez, an opportunity to impress Solskjaer even further on a bigger stage.
Even if Fernandez is not required for the First Team this season, there could be a better opportunity next year with some more experience under his belt. Additionally, it is unclear whether Telles will stay at the club beyond this season as the Brazilian may seek to find a move that offers more regular game time.
This could then lead to a battle between Williams and Fernandez to take up the vacant slot, although there is also the chance of United going into the transfer market for a more experienced option.
Whatever happens over the next year or so it’s clear that Fernandez has a bright future in the world of football. A callup to the U19s Spanish national team is on the cards, and recognition at United means that the future is looking brighter and brighter for the 18-year-old.
It’s only fitting that if the youngster continues to impress with his performances that he is afforded more opportunities to train with the First Team, learning from the likes of Shaw and Ronaldo, and at the end of the day, there isn’t many better to learn from.
Written by Sam Wilson