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Former coach says Man United starlet can be ‘a great player’, he might be sold for £5m

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While the youngster’s latest loan spell at Manchester United may have started slowly, his most recent outing saw him exceed the impact of a man who has probably been the best in his position anywhere across Europe in 2023/24.

Alejandro Grimaldo, a revelation during Bayer Leverkusen’s historic Bundesliga title triumph under Xabi Alonso, rose through the ranks in Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy. It was at Benfica where Grimaldo really made his name, however.

Nearly ten years on, Alvaro Fernandez – or Alvaro Carreras as they tend to call him in Portugal – is following in Grimaldo’s footsteps. And despite a somewhat underwhelming start to Lisbon life for the Manchester United owned left-back, A Bola are keen to point out that Fernandez statistics from his first few months at Benfica are actually superior to those of a young Grimaldo.

Whether Fernandez can ascend to the same sky-high levels as his fellow full-back – Grimaldo mustering 28 ‘goal contributions’ for Leverkusen this term – only time will tell.

But with Benfica now expected to trigger the £5 million option-to-buy clause in the 21-year-old’s Man United contract, a man who coached Fernandez in the first half of 2023/24 is confident that there is a lot more to come.

Alvaro Fernandez of SL Benfica seen in action during the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 match between Benfica and Toulouse at Estádio do Sport Lisboa e...

Photo by Nuno Branco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Manchester United may lose Alvaro Fernandez permanently

“I see him as a mentally strong player and I believe he reacts well when he doesn’t have many minutes. I had conversations with him at Granada about this,” Paco Lopez tells A Bola of Fernandes, who started only five La Liga matches at the club where Facundo Pellistri is now making a far bigger impact.

“He knows there are aspects to improve and he will definitely improve. I believe he has a very promising future. Alvaro Carreras is a player with a lot of offensive talent.”

Lopez feels that Fernandes, who won Preston North End’s Young Player of the Year award during a previous loan spell, is better suited to playing as a wing-back rather than an orthodox left-back. While excellent in possession, his off-the-ball work could still get a whole lot better.

But where better to hone those talents than a Benfica side who can boast one of the finest track records in European football when it comes to youth development?

Benfica appear set to trigger clause

“He is a technically very evolved player. Plays well on the wing, links well with his team-mates, has a good pass. Technically, for a full-back, he is a player with a lot of quality,” Lopez adds.

“But, of course, he is still young and has to complete his growth process and improve some defensive aspects. It’s a matter of working and being patient with him.

“With work and dedication, I believe he can be a great player. I believe that over time he can be an important player for any team.

“Occupying a place at Benfica that belonged to Grimaldo is challenging. Grimaldo is a great player, but Alvaro is young and clearly has a promising future, I am convinced of that.”

Fernandez impressed for United in pre-season but left after being told he was not part of Erik ten Hag’s plans. It remains to be seen whether including an option-to-buy clause in his Benfica contract is a decision United will end up regretting, given the club’s obvious shortages at left-back.

  • READ MORE: All 17 Manchester United loanees for the 23/24 season

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