Man Utd star Pellistri was scrutinised by Rangnick but rapidly excited
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Manchester United have had to be patient with Facundo Pellistri but, now, that patience appears to have been worth the wait. The youngster arrived from Penarol back in the summer transfer window of 2020, brought in as an alternative to Jadon Sancho. Now, Express Sport takes a look at the 21-year-old’s journey at the club so far.
With United struggling to sign Sancho nearly three years ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to pick up the phone and give old team-mate Diego Forlan a ring.
Speaking shortly after the arrival of the forward, Forlan recalled: “He asked me lots of questions about Facundo and I gave him lots of answers.
“There was a lot of interest in the player and I could understand why.
“He’s very quick and goes past players easily. He was doing that even when it was not a good moment for the team.
“I told Ole he has a lot of potential, but he has to keep developing.
“I told Facundo many times: ‘There are not players like you in Uruguay, but if you go to Europe, which attracts the best in the world, there will be many others who are very fast – and stronger than you too. You have potential but it depends on you to improve.’”
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In the end, Solskjaer was swayed.
United decided to bring in Pellistri, along with his Uruguay team-mate Edinson Cavani as they looked to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the biggest titles on offer.
Recruitment staff at the club were excited, described as ‘buzzing’ over the arrival of the South American star.
But it soon became apparent that Pellistri would require a loan away from the club to enhance his development.
For the past two seasons, the player spent time on loan at Deportivo Alaves. Consistency was a problem, however, with the attacker failing to register a single La Liga goal or assist during his time there.
Last season, as United toiled under Ralf Rangnick, it emerged the German had his doubts over the player.
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It was claimed the German had ‘asked internally’ about the decision to land Pellistri, along with Amad and Donny van de Beek.
Indeed, few foresaw him having much of a future at United.
After all, they were well-stocked for wingers last term. Along with Sancho, who finally arrived in 2021, they also had Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Cristiano Ronaldo capable of playing out wide.
With Alejandro Garnacho then emerging, and Antony touching down from Ajax, his chances of regular first-team football looked to be even more remote.
Yet football is a curious sport.
And with Garnacho and Antony out injured, Erik ten Hag then decided to deploy Pellistri from the start against Real Betis on Thursday night.
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Previously, the attacker had been limited to cameos off the bench – having made his debut in a Carabao Cup victory over Charlton earlier in the season.
Now, though, it looks as though the Uruguay international has been worth the wait.
Pellistri was impressive on Thursday, posing Betis problems with his directness and also earning praise from BT Sport pundits Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves.
Ten Hag, too, hailed the youngster – insisting he recovered from a ‘shy’ start to prove his worth.
“It’s not about learning. When you play for Manchester United, you have to perform and he came in a little bit shy,” said the Dutchman.
“But, after, you could see he got the belief and he was really in the game.
“Really good actions, really good movement in behind and that was the mark before the game from a tactical approach.
“Defensively, he did his job really well and, all over, I think it was a good performance. I think he deserved to come on.
“I see him progressing and getting stronger. He was good when he came in against Leeds and Betis in the home game.
“He’s got belief and then you see his abilities. I’m very pleased with his performance.
“It was a step up for more but, once again, it is about him – what he can bring and what he can contribute to the team.”
The onus will now be on Pellistri to justify all the hype and become a United regular for many years to come. With Garnacho out injured for the foreseeable future and Antony battling with illness, another start against Fulham in the FA Cup on Sunday isn’t out of the question.
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