Perhaps it was fitting that, on the day when Manchester United’s greatest supersub returned to Old Trafford, the club’s current late-match game-changer helped secure a vital three points in a match they had to win if they wanted to keep their hopes of Champions League football for next season alive.
Under the watchful eyes of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who made his first appearance at Old Trafford since getting sacked in November 2021, United beat Wolves 2-0, behind goals from Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho.
For Garnacho, Sunday marked his return after two months out with an ankle injury. Just like he did against Fulham, Leeds, Aston Villa and Man City, Garnacho was the x-factor, using his skill, trickery and speed to put a tired defense to the stone.
“Garna, everyone can see it. He came in and did almost everything good, and scored a great goal that will give him belief. It’s good for us for the rest of the season, that he’s back, and can have an impact,” Erik ten Hag said after the match.
Then again, it’s not like Wolves played that much better when they were fresh. With seemingly had nothing to play for, having clinched Premier League survival last week, Wolves were more like sheep on Sunday. Whereas previous Wolves/United matches have been fairly competitive, this one was not. Wolves managed 5 shots all match, none of them were on target.
And yet, United still had to sweat it out, thanks to another frustrating day in front of the net from their misfiring attackers. Antony, for instance, missed a bunch of chances, including two absolute sitters.
However, he also made a brilliant cut-back move when he was through on goal to set up a tap-in for Anthony Martial for the first goal of the game — and United’s first league goal in over 250 minutes.
With only 51 league goals this season, only Aston Villa have scored fewer goals among teams in the top half of the table. United have only scored two more goals than 19th place Leicester City and five more than 18th place Leeds United.
As such, if it weren’t already clear, United desperately need a world class striker. Whether it’s renting Harry Kane for a few seasons, breaking the bank for Victor Osimhen or gambling on a lesser known entity, it’s clear that the current crop isn’t cutting it— Marcus Rashford excepted.
Luckily, Garnacho is back and has demonstrated how he can be a weapon for United for the rest of the season. Like Solskjær and another Uniter super-sub, Javier Hernandez, Garnacho has good pace, excellent anticipation and lethal finishing skills. He’s the perfect weapon to throw at a weary, worn out defense and he’s young, so he’ll probably be okay with coming off the bench for at least the nest couple of years.
Then again, as long as he’s happy with his role for the next few games, that would be more than sufficient. For United, the job is clear: Win two out of their last three league matches and Champions League is assured. Luckily, they’ll have two more matches at home, where they’ve only dropped points in four league matches this season and six matches overall. Here’s hoping Garnacho can get a few more goals between now and then.