The teenager is set to go straight into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team squad having arrived from Penarol on transfer deadline day
After a summer dominated by frustration, the headlines surrounding Manchester United’s deadline-day signing of Edinson Cavani were probably to be expected.
A household name around the footballing world arriving at Old Trafford is always going to garner interest, even when that player is approaching the twilight years of their career.
Cavani, though, was not the only Uruguayan to arrive at United on October 5.
Given the astronomical rise in Google searches of his name, far fewer Red Devils supporters had heard of Facundo Pellistri when compared with Cavani.
Acquired from Penarol for £9 million ($12m), it is hoped that the 18-year-old will bring some of the same qualities to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad that United had hoped the arrival of Jadon Sancho would provide.
Penarol, coached until September by ex-United striker Diego Forlan, had hoped that they could convince the 20-time English champions to loan Pellistri back to them, but United are looking to establish their new South American wonderkid into Solskjaer’s group.
Though the club are keen not to pile pressure onto their young players, Pellistri’s presence in their 25-man squad for the group stages of the Champions League suggests he will be involved with the first team from the off.
“Whilst we understand it will take time for him to adapt to the English game, he is capable of having an impact with his pace and ability to beat his opponent,” Solskjaer said upon Pellistri’s arrival.
“Facundo has the perfect platform at Manchester United to develop and he has all of the technical qualities and the right mentality required to become a top player here.”
Pellistri’s arrival comes three years after United were first alerted to his talents, with their Argentine academy scout having flagged him up as a player with potential back in September 2017.
The club has continued to monitor him closely via both their South American and chief global scouts, with those who have watched Pellistri closely having singled out his explosive pace and superb dribbling ability.
“Pellistri has huge potential. There is still a lot to work on. He is growing and he makes the difference,” Forlan told Jogo Bonito in April. “We know it will be difficult to keep him for a long time. He has great pace and that is hard to handle.”
Comparisons have been made to both Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, though the youngster needs to work on his decision making and end product having chalked up just one goal and two assists in his 12 senior appearances thus far.
As such, and given the presence of both Mason Greenwood and Daniel James in Solskjaer’s squad, it has come as something of a surprise that he is set to be immediately entrusted with a place among the first team when many felt he would benefit from earning minutes as part of the Under-23s to begin with.
Despite those reservations, the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Lyon had all shown an interest in signing Pellistri before United snapped him up, with the Red Devils having brought in a player who is sure to get fans on their feet once he is up to speed.
Juan Roman Riquelme, the former Argentina playmaker who is now vice-president of Boca Juniors and who has witnessed Pellistri’s ability first-hand, commented: “He is young and talented. He hasn’t played that much but you can see he is a real rascal with the ball at his feet. And that is important. There aren’t many like him around, who have the courage to be so cheeky on the pitch. That is highly valuable.”
Solskjaer will be hoping that those cheeky tendencies translate into performances on the pitch.
If they do, then Pellistri could be the most important Uruguayan to arrive at Old Trafford this year.