Erik ten Hag has praised Alejandro Garnacho’s display in Manchester United’s win over FC Sheriff after overcoming early season struggles, while he also explained why he got the nod over Anthony Elanga.
The Red Devils kept their hopes of topping their Europa League group alive after goals from Diogo Dalot, Rashford and Ronaldo secured all three points on Thursday – though they must beat Real Sociedad next week by two goals to avoid the play-off round.
Garnacho started for the first time and was impressive, though Ten Hag says he has not always been happy with the Argentina Under-20 international who has taken some time to adapt to the rigours of top-level football.
Asked about the player’s display, Ten Hag said: ‘I think it was a good performance from him. He did what I expect him to do. First, he deserved a chance in the last weeks.
‘The start was difficult for him in the season, I was not happy with him. But the last weeks I was happy with him. He’s had a better attitude, more resilience, more determination.
‘And what you see he has the talent to deal with the ball in tight areas, to run behind, and especially also his tempo dribbles, he can take on players and that is a good ability in football nowadays especially against opponents who are defending as compact as this opponent.
‘So I’m happy with that. I hope for him it is a stimulus, the first game, and that he knows that he has to do better to get into the team, to create more.’
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Asked what had been wrong with Garnacho that caused Ten Hag to be unhappy, he added: ‘Not wrong… it’s more, young kids they have to grow and to raise their personality. They have to know what are, let’s say, the lows and the demands in football, in top football.
‘And it’s not only about a trick or about scoring one goal, we have to win football games and that demands a lot and then you have to fulfil every day the highest standards. That is what we had to teach him. And not only him, but we have to teach all the players – but especially the young players.’
Elanga, meanwhile, was an unused substitute against FC Sheriff despite a lively cameo off the bench against Chelsea and Ten Hag would like to have given him another run out, though felt Garnacho’s ability in tight spaces gave him the edge.
He explained: ‘I was really pleased with the performance of Anthony Elanga against Chelsea, so it was also a difficult decision whether I play Anthony Elanga or Garnacho.
‘It was really close [between them] but finally I decided because in tight areas Garnacho has really good capabilities to find solutions to take players on with his tempo dribbles, so I like that.
‘But there is good development from the youngsters and they have to close the gap [to the senior players] and contribute to the squad and contribute to our results.
‘But they have to deserve [a chance] in training and when they deserve the chance [make the most of] the opportunities here at Old Trafford.’