Facundo Pellistri proved he's up to the task after full United debut

CHRIS WHEELER: Facundo Pellistri made his full Man United debut against Real Betis and the Uruguayan proved he’s up to the task in Europe… now after gaining Erik ten Hag’s trust, the Red Devils have yet another attacking weapon in their arsenal

  • Facundo Pellistri is making the most of his Man Utd first team opportunity 
  • The Uruguayan made his first start for the club in Thursday’s win over Real Betis 
  •  He was set for loan move this season before an a ankle injury halted those plans 

Fortunes  can change quickly in football. When Alejandro Garnacho came on as a substitute at Old Trafford on Sunday, he was hoping to provide the spark for Manchester United to break the deadlock against Southampton. 

Just 16 minutes later, the teenage winger was limping off with an ankle injury that will keep him out of action for much of the rest of the season.

Garnacho was nowhere to be seen when United travelled to Seville for their Europa League last 16 second leg against Real Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamarin. Neither was Antony, whose goal at Old Trafford a week earlier had turned the tie in United’s favour as they took a 4-1 lead.

The Brazil winger fell ill earlier in the week and couldn’t make the trip to southern Spain, leaving United without two of their first-choice wingers.

It was a significant setback for manager Erik ten Hag but one that opened the door to Facundo Pellistri.

 Facundo Pellistri has taken advantage of his chances in the Manchester United first team 

Erik ten Hag has  given Pellistri the chance to prove he can be a first team squad member 

The young Uruguay winger may not even have been at Old Trafford had an ankle injury sustained against Atletico Madrid in a pre-season friendly in Oslo last July not scuppered another loan move following a season and a half at Alaves. Indeed, Pellistri’s only appearance before the World Cup started in November was for United’s Under-21 team against Barrow.

However, the South American who turned 21 just after the tournament in Qatar ended did enough to convince Ten Hag that he was ready to challenge for a first-team place at United.

After six appearances off the bench – including setting up United’s fourth goal in the first-leg win over Betis – Pellistri was rewarded with his full debut on Thursday night in the absence of Antony and Garnacho as United reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League. They face Fulham in the FA Cup quarters on Sunday having already lifted the Carabao Cup.

‘Unluckily, this is football,’ said Pellistri. ‘Alejandro had this injury and the same happened to me some weeks before. We have to be ready because you never know when is your chance. We are in a very good club, one of the biggest in the world, so you have to be ready to play.’

The opportunity came at such short notice that Pellistri barely had chance to arrange for his family and partner to be at the game in Seville.

‘I knew it two days ago when we prepared for the match,’ he added. ‘I managed to get my dad and my girlfriend here. They were in the stadium so they really enjoyed it.

‘Although the result at Old Trafford was really good for us, we came here to win because we are Man United and we have to win every game.

‘Hopefully it’s the start off of this. Of course I’m hungry. A lot of players in the group are really hungry, we have one amazing group. We all push for the same side. Hopefully in the end of the season, we can win a lot of trophies.

‘We want to win everything. That’s why we prepare and we train hard. We want to win every game and every trophy we are in.’

Pellistri showed plenty of energy and endeavour in the first half without being able to penetrate the Real Betis defence, although it was his deflected volley just before half-time that led to Wout Weghorst hitting the post.

As the game opened up in the second period, there was more space for him to attack down the United right and it was from one such foray that Marcus Rashford wasted a one-on-one chance before making amends with a stunning strike to give United a 5-1 aggregate win.

Pellistri made his first Manchester United start in the 1-0 win over Real Betis on Thursday 

The injury to Alejandro Garnacho has opened the door for Pellistri to prove his worth 

‘I’m really happy,’ said Pellistri, a £9million signing from Uruguay club Penarol in 2020. ‘I really worked for this moment, and luckily we could win. It was our mission.

‘The manager really trusts me, so I felt that confidence from him. He told me to run behind, to get the ball and enjoy the moment. We really liked the long balls in the second half. Marcus could score there and we took the win.’

Pellistri’s immediate future will be up for discussion again in the summer. Having missed out on a loan move this season, another may materialise. But having finally made his first start for United, he would dearly like to stay and be part of Ten Hag’s plans.

‘In pre-season, I was always focused on football. I never thought about the loan,’ he recalled. ‘Then, of course, at the end of the window, you have to think about it.

‘I got injured against Atletico. I knew that I was staying in Manchester United. So, yeah, I was focused on the pre-season and now I’m focused on the next games and to help the team in the way I can.

‘Of course, being in a club like Manchester United, you always want to be here. We are very early to think about that (a loan move). So now I’m focused on helping the team and to win the most trophies we can this season, then we will see what happens.

‘It’s amazing to be here. You are surrounded by the best players in the world here and they teach you a lot. Each day you learn different things that help you to get experience and to be a better player.

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