Manchester United academy product Alejandro Garnacho was playing for the U18s in the FA Youth Cup when the 2021/22 season ended.
At the end of the 2022/23 season, there is a genuine debate about whether he could have been given the famous No 7 shirt at United.
“Doing a Garnacho”, therefore, is when a youth player breaks out in a big and unexpected way, instantly becoming one of the more important players in the team.
Marcus Rashford “did a Garnacho” before the Argentine was even at the club, and now there are three players who – if things break right – could tread the same path as Rashford and Garnacho.
The preseason will be crucial for them, and then, an opening is needed in the first team. From there, just like the two players mentioned above, they will need to make an instant impact to solidify their place.
Nobody said it was easy, but if anyone is capable of it, it is these three players…
Kobbie Mainoo is arguably rated even higher than Rashford and Garnacho were in their academy days. The 17-year-old has already been a part of a few matchday squads last season.
High praise indeed, but that’s the kind of ceiling Mainoo has shown in his fledgling career so far.
Midfield is now a tough position to break into at United. Mason Mount’s arrival means even a player with the pedigree of Christian Eriksen is likely to come off the bench.
However, in a long and arduous season, a path could open up for Mainoo, particularly with other potential departures on the horizon.
The first step would be to impress in preseason and convince Erik ten Hag that he does not need a loan move. From there, it is all about biding his time until an opening presents itself.
The manager has already shown that he is not afraid of putting in young players if they show potential and willingness to learn.
Breaking into a United midfield will not be easy, but with a change of the guard coming, Mainoo may never have a better chance to do it.
Fernandez belongs to the elite “Pre-Brexit” class of acquisitions which United made quickly as buying foreign players under the age of 18 was outlawed by Brexit.
Along with Marc Jurado, Willy Kambwala, Hannibal Mejbri, and a certain Alejandro Garnacho, the left back was part of a crop that came with huge promise.
One has already broken through, Fernandez is best placed to be the next.
A loan to the Championship is a baptism of fire for any youngster, especially for non-British ones. Fernandez, however, went to Preston, became their Young Player of the Year winner, and was a fan-favourite by the end.
The flying wingback showed all the qualities Ten Hag looks for in a defender. He is confident going forwards, can pick out a pass as per the spaces on the pitch, and his defensive work has come on leaps and bounds on loan.
With Luke Shaw tried in the heart of defence many times last season, and United looking increasingly unlikely to buy a new centre-back, a door could open for Fernandez.
Tyrell Malacia did an admirable job covering for Shaw last year but Fernandez could be an elite in-house solution for the next decade and beyond in a position that is difficult to sort in the transfer market.
This is the wild card choice. Excitement around McNeill was at fever pitch when he scored 24 goals in 21 games for United U18s in the 2020/21 season.
However, since then, some dry spells have followed for the reserve team in Premier League 2.
Last year he went on loan to Newport County for his first senior football experience but it yielded only two goals in 20 appearances.
Clearly, his somewhat one-dimensional play is hindering his ability to make the final jump.
Right now, McNeill is a good finisher but not much else. Fortunately for him, that is the one thing hardest to teach and he is already very good at it.
Furthermore, in what would be a nightmare scenario, United might end the current window without any striking reinforcements.
The path would then become clear for McNeill.
Rashford got his debut when Anthony Martial was injured, and his backup Will Keane also picked up a knock in training. Even Rashford wasn’t particularly prolific in his academy days.
McNeill can look up to his example. A goal or two in the first few appearances can change the trajectory of a player’s career and those initial steps are a realistic proposition for a United side that looks desperately short in the striking department.