Alejandro Garnacho

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes believes playing alongside Lionel Messi at international level could have led to Alejandro Garnacho experiencing problems with his attitude at the start of this season.

The youngster, who joined United from Atletico Madrid in October 2020, scored his first senior goal for the club on Thursday evening, netting the winner in their 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in the Europa League. The 18-year-old latched onto Cristiano Ronaldo’s excellent pass and rifled a well-timed finish past goalkeeper Alex Remiro.

Though his first-half effort was enough to clinch a third successive victory in all competitions for the Reds, it was not enough to claim top spot in Group E. They had to win by two clear goals to top the group and avoid an unwanted Europa League play-off round against a third-placed Champions League club in February.

As frustrating as that was, Garnacho’s performance, just as it was against Sheriff Tiraspol at Old Trafford last week, was one of encouragement. He has started United’s last two Europa League fixtures following a difficult start to the season, where he struggled for regular opportunities.

Manager Erik ten Hag hinted last week that attitude problems had led to Garnacho being ignored in the opening weeks of the season. He was included in the squad for the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia but did not play a single minute, despite the excitement surrounding him.

And following the win over Sociedad, Bruno Fernandes also hinted that attitude troubles had forced the youngster to be overlooked at the start of the campaign.

Fernandes told BT Sport: “He did well tonight, but he knows we still expect a lot from him. He did not start the best during pre-season and maybe did not have the attitude that he should have had. But he has changed that now and you can see that with his performances on the pitch.”

Fernandes’ comments prompted a response from former United star Scholes, who was covering the win over Sociedad as a pundit for BT Sport. He felt that rubbing shoulders with Messi, following a call-up to the Argentina senior squad, could have impacted Garnacho’s attitude.

“He said that was in pre-season, so maybe he was too big for his boots in the summer,” Scholes told BT Sport. “He did go with Argentina and play with Messi, and maybe he has come back and thought ‘this is me and I am part of this team’.

“He’s a young lad, he is going to learn and we are going to see the benefits of that.”

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