Manchester United fans finally got the chance to see Guillermo Varela in action on Saturday. The young Uruguayan came on as a second-half substitute in the Premier League game against West Ham United at Old Trafford.
It marked the end to a 30-month wait for his senior debut. Varela was introduced in place of Paddy McNair, who had been filling in at right-back, with the score 0-0, according to the club's official Twitter feed:
His appearance made a rare piece of history for the Old Trafford club:
Previously, Varela's only distinction had been his status as the first signing of the ill-fated David Moyes regime, as noted by Mirror writer Aaron Flanagan. He detailed how the 22-year-old was originally signed from Penarol in May 2013.
Flanagan also recounted how Varela caught the eye at youth level: "He had enjoyed a successful two-week trial at Carrington after impressing for Uruguay at the South American Youth Championships."
His debut year in United's reserve setup was interrupted by a return to South America for what the club's official site dubbed "personal reasons." But the same site also notes how later in the year, the former Uruguay Under-20 international "proved popular with supporters" for his performances at youth level.
Varela did eventually go on loan to earn more experience. He reportedly earned positive reviews from Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane when he flourished on a loan spell at Castilla in 2014.
Sports journalist Phil Kitromilides also noted how well Varela performed in Los Blancos' reserve setup:
During his time in the Spanish capital, the youthful defender's "potential was so high, the Real first team even included him in their squad for the Champions League," per Flanagan.
The need to accelerate his development has been created by United missing Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia. Manager Louis van Gaal had reacted by moving Matteo Darmian to the left and deploying McNair.
Bringing on Varela at the break was a change probably made to coax more attacking intent. Varela wasted no time adding pace to United's forward play, according to Manchester Evening News writer Rob Dawson:
As for his overall performance, Manchester Evening News reporter Stuart Mathieson credited the full-back with producing a "composed effort."
Now Varela gets the chance to justify the reported €2.8 million he cost the Red Devils, according to Flanagan.