Facundo Pellistri has given Erik ten Hag an unexpected Manchester United project – George Smith

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Exactly five and a half hours after Manchester United confirmed their first signing of transfer deadline day on October 5, 2020, they confirmed their third.

The club kicked-off their deadline day additions with the signing of Alex Telles from FC Porto, before later confirming the arrivals of free agent Edinson Cavani and promising youngster Facundo Pellistri from Club Atletico Penarol, completing a hat-trick of South American signings. Telles and Cavani arrived in M16 with the task of making an immediate impact in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team, whereas Pellistri – who was only 18 – was one for the future.

He was an unknown name to almost everybody in English football but United had seen enough of him to sign him for £ 9million. Although he was an unknown figure, the deal had an element of excitement to it. Had United unearthed a hidden gem?

READ MORE: ‘He is too good!’ – Manchester United fans send Facundo Pellistri message after Uruguay heroic

Almost two years later, Pellistri is still waiting to make his competitive debut for United, with his only taste of first-team football at Old Trafford coming in the form of three pre-season friendslies. He featured in clashes with Derby County, QPR and Brentford last July, scoring against the former.

With Jadon Sancho having been added to the squad during pre-season, Anthony Elanga breaking through and Amad chomping at the bit to prove his worth, it was always going to be a challenge for the Uruguayans to earn regular opportunities to impress. Therefore, in the best interests of all parties, he joined Deportivo Alaves ahead of the season starting in August. It marked his second spell with the Spanish club after spending the second half of the 2020/21 campaign on loan at Mendizorrotza Stadium.

At the time, it made perfect sense, as opportunities in Spain would surely be more frequent than those in Manchester. A full season playing regular football in one of European football’s biggest leagues seen as the perfect tonic for a young player looking to learn on the job.

It hasn’t proven so. Pellistri’s second spell at Alaves could not have turned out to have been more disappointing. Making just 23 appearances in all competitions – amounting to just 750 minutes worth of football – he started just six times, meaning it was virtually impossible for him to get into any sort of rhythm and offer a true account of himself.

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It did not help that Alaves were stuck in a relegation battle, eventually finishing bottom of La Liga, scoring a paltry 31 goals all season. He failed to score or register a single assist, suggesting that he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in his second spell at the Spanish club.



Facundo Pellistri looks to try and burst past Jesus Angulo (right).
Facundo Pellistri looks to try and burst past Jesus Angulo (right).

After such an uninspiring season, you could forgive United supporters for not feeling overly confident that the 20-year-old has what it takes to make the grade at Old Trafford and find a place in the Erik ten Hag revolution. On the flip side, however, his numbers and performances for Uruguay make much more impressive viewing.

He claimed his third assist in just four caps for his country on Thursday night, helping Diego Alonso’s side beat Mexico 3-0 in an international friendly. Displaying terrific energy levels and a clear hunger to make things happen, he provided an outstanding assist for Edinson Cavani to net his first and Uruguay’s second goal of the game. It told Ten Hag that Pellistri should not be forgotten about this summer, despite his struggles in La Liga.

If anything, his continued involvement with the Uruguay squad, despite his troubles at Alaves, shows that there is a player within him with rich amounts of talent. He is highly-rated by Alonso and his recent performances for his country have fully justified his selection.

Considering this summer marks the beginning of a new dawn at Old Trafford, Pellistri might have picked just the right time to re-announce himself to the United faithful, who could have easily forgotten about him after failing to make any headlines in Spain.

He still has plenty of work to do to become a United regular, but Ten Hag, equipped with his knowledge of knowing how to bring the best out of young players, could be just what Pellistri needs.

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