Álvaro Fernández returned to Old Trafford this summer following an impressive season on loan at Preston North End.
The talented fullback accumulated six assists in forty-two appearances for his adopted club, winning Preston’s Young Player of the Year award in the process.
Fernández described the last season in the Championship as “great”, with the experiences enabling him to have “improved a lot” as a player.
The Championship is the perfect environment for a talented youngster to test themselves in. The intensity and physicality of the league mirrors England’s top flight, while offering a plethora of games to feature in.
The fervour of the support is another important aspect for young players to adapt to, with the Championship consistently one of the best attended leagues in Europe.
Fernández confirms this viewpoint, describing how “every game is hard to play.”
The Spaniard has been included in Manchester United’s pre-season squad for the American tour this summer. The club are set to face Real Madrid tonight in a friendly in Houston; the same team United signed Fernández from.
Fernández has confirmed his desire to remain in the United squad in an interview with Spanish media, even after pre-season ends:
“Hopefully I can stay in the United first team. If it doesn’t happen and I have to go out on loan, then keep working hard and keep growing. I am 20 years old and what I want is to play. But if it can be at United, much better.”
The fullback strikes the right balance between ambition and realism. Though his preference is to remain at Old Trafford, Fernández evidently recognises his route to the first XI is a difficult one.
Luke Shaw, following an impressive return last season to Shawberto Carlos, and Tyrell Malacia, signed via the direct influence of Erik ten Hag, occupy the left-back role in the squad at present. Another loan may prove the best option for Fernández to continue his development.
The Spaniard reveals Preston North End wished for him to “continue” at the club next season, while other “great Championship teams” are similarly interested in his services. But Fernández’s ambitions have grown beyond this:
“I would say that the time has come to go to a top league.”
The fullback acknowledges this does not necessarily have to be “the Premier League or La Liga”, implying he may have his eyes set on one of Europe’s other major leagues.
The experience drawn from playing for a top side in, for example, Portugal or Holland would be invaluable for a player as technically gifted as Fernández.
The demands and pressures are different when your team is considered the best in the land.
Having won the Denzil Haroun Reserve-Team Player of the Year award in 2022, the United coaching staff clearly recognise the talent Fernández possesses. They must find the fullback the perfect home next season for him to continue to develop these.
If Fernandez can come close to matching the career of the last United superstar to succeed on loan at Preston North End, his future at Old Trafford will be a fantastic one.