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Álvaro Fernández On England Move, Manchester United And ‘Second Family’ At PNE

18 January 2023

Uprooting your life at the age of 17 to a country which speaks a different language to your own is a daunting prospect.

And to do it all on your own, leaving family and friends back at home, makes it all the more difficult.

However, a young Álvaro Fernández – at the time playing for one of the biggest clubs in world football, Real Madrid – did just that, to join another.

The Spaniard had spent four years with Los Blancos after joining from Deportivo de La Coruña at 13, and another contract was on the table for him at the Bernabeu.

But the pull of English football – more specifically, Manchester United – was just too great.

Álvaro told The One And Only: “It was a big moment in my life, of course, because I came here and I did not speak English, so it was hard.

“But at the same time it was good, because I came to Manchester United, a big club with big history and it was a big challenge for me.

“I was in quarantine in Spain at the time during the Covid pandemic. I was just at home and Manchester United called us, my family and me, and at the beginning it was a big, crazy moment.

“I knew I was going to have to go alone, because my family couldn’t come.

“When we finished the talk, I spoke with my family, and I said: ‘Okay, I will go.’”

There’s no doubting the stature of both clubs on the world stage, and the opportunity to play for either is the dream of many youngsters, who lay at home looking at posters of their heroes on their walls.

It wasn’t just the idea of making Old Trafford his home or the history of the club that enticed Álvaro, though.

For him, his development in football was a huge part of those discussions and a big factor in why the decision was eventually made to relocate.

“Real Madrid offered me another deal, but I said no, because I wanted to go to Manchester United,” said Álvaro.

“I chose them because they’re a big club and they showed me exactly how they were going to plan my football career.

“They told me I would go to the U23s even though I was 17.

“I came here and played with the U23s, which was good for me and the experience was great.  

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“More or less, I did well, and then I trained with the first team which was crazy. I was on the training pitch with Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford – just crazy.”

On the side of his football came something arguably just as important, which was making the adjustment to life in England.

Back at Madrid, he had been living six hours away from his family and home city, A Coruña, while he stayed at the club’s training ground with some of his team-mates.

Álvaro would see his parents, his brother and sister every weekend though, as they traveled to watch all of his games.

So it goes without saying that things changed somewhat once he touched down in Manchester.

“I lived with an English host family for the first two seasons at Manchester United,” added Álvaro.

“I was lucky because I lived with a very, very good family. They took care of me.

“My family in Spain were relaxed, because they knew my English family were very good to me, so that was a very big thing.

“I live alone now, but I couldn’t have done that when I first came here.”

Living with a group of native speakers also helped Álvaro with his learning of the English language, which he previously had very minimal fluency of.

He said: “Because I had training in the mornings, I couldn’t go to school every day, but speaking with my English family improved me.

“It’s okay talking English every day here now.

“I get to speak Spanish with Bambo [Diaby] which is nice; we are quite close.”

Bambo became a team-mate of Álvaro’s on 26th July 2022, when the teenager moved to Deepdale on a season-long loan from Erik ten Hag’s United.

The move followed his fantastic performances for the Red Devils in the 2021/22 campaign, as he ended the season with their U23 Player of the Year award.

Álvaro was also named on a few Premier League team sheets, but the plan was always for him to go out on loan and earn experience before a return to Old Trafford.

Álvaro said: “I think they wanted a team that was close to them, around Manchester, so they could be close to me and come to watch me at games.

“They told me I had a big opportunity to come here, to come and play for a big club in the Championship with big fans, so they said: ‘If you go there it will be a challenge.’”

The left wing back had to be patient for his opportunity, only featuring off the bench in the opening two games of the Championship season, before making his first start in the Carabao Cup against Huddersfield Town.

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What a night he was having too, as he claimed two assists in the first half, but unfortunately had to be substituted at the break due to an ankle injury.

Since his return from that at the end of August, though, he’s regularly featured for Ryan Lowe’s men.

Álvaro said: “I wanted to come here to play and I’m doing that, so I’m happy.

“With my team-mates and with the gaffer, I feel good.

“At the beginning it was a big challenge, but now it’s like my second family here so I’m okay.”

U23s football is certainly not something to turn your nose up at, but senior football is a different animal altogether.

The schedule is more intense, the opposition is stronger, and there is ultimately much more to play for.

“It’s hard, but that’s the Championship,” he said.

“I like the challenge of playing two games in a week, in different competitions, so I like it.

“I feel I have improved as a player since I came here.

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“The manager is great with me. He is looking to make me better, so that is good for me.

“That is what I came here for.”

Ultimately, like any young Premier League player going out on loan, this spell is about that progression before he returns to Old Trafford wanting to make his mark on the first team.

That is not yet in Álvaro’s mind, though, as he finds himself fully focused on life at Deepdale.

He said: “It’s about the team. We are challenging to make the Play-Offs, which we believe is possible.

“Everyone here wants to be there.

“The most important thing for the club when I came here was that challenge, so we will keep going.

“I’m focused here. I came here for one season and until the end, I am a PNE player.”


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