|Image from 90min|
Manchester United has a long history of producing young exciting players and that is the case today with our current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not being afraid to use these players in the first team. As Matt Busby once said, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough”. As we have seen this season, we have seen likes of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams flourishing when they have been given their chance.
One such youth player that is highly rated at the club is James Garner. He has been praised by many within the club and has been liking to the next Michael Carrick. In a recent interview given by Scott McTominay, he had listed Garner along with three other United prospects as a standout player who will soon be knocking on the door of the first team.
Although Garner did make his debut for United before Greenwood and Williams, his time on the pitch has been limited with only eight minutes in Premier League games since playing against Crystal Palace last February. His other appearances, which has been six in all having come in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup. When Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay were on the sidelines due to injury this season, many United fans including myself were expecting to see more of Garner to cover their absence, however Solskjaer decided to use Andreas Pereria in the midfield alongside Fred that had seen indifferent performances from Pereira. However, if/when the current Premier League season does resume after it was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that Garner will see much first team game time. That is why the development of Garner the following season will be crucial.
Nicky Butt, former player and head of first team development at United had told the Manchester Evening News he could understand Garner’s frustrations as not being involved with the first team this season. Butt said, “I think I’d probably be the same if I was 18 or 19 and not getting in the first-team. I’d want to go and play men’s football as well, because you do come to a point in the reserves where you bypass that and it does become too easy for you, and it becomes a bit lethargic and you also want to push the younger ones up.“
His record for both United U21’s and U23’s this season has seen him score 8 goals in 11 appearances indicating that he reaches the point where he needs more regular game time. It has been noted by United that they like Garner’s attitude and his willingness to improve his game but competition for places next season will be even more if United strengthen the midfield and Paul Pogba decides to commit his future to the club. It makes it more likely that Garner will be sent out on loan to another club.
I have been impressed by Garner when I have seen him in the first team with his composure, vision and his ability to get the ball moving up the pitch. I believe that going on loan next season will be making of him and stand him in good stead when he would return to United the following season to stake his claim for a starting place. In addition, playing more regularly will build his confidence as he has been described as a ‘shy’ scouser and will in time come into his own. For example, when James Garner put in an excellent display (who was captain for the game) to end Chelsea’s run in the FA Youth Cup last season, he did not have the confidence to speak to the media afterwards as it was Brandon Williams who stepped up. You could liken Garner’s personality to that of Paul Scholes during his player career as he rarely liked to give interviews to the media.
A potential loan move to Championship side Swansea City could give Garner the much needed playing time and the confidence to build as a player. He is of slight build so he can use this time to bulk up so when he returns back to United he is up to the physicality and pace of playing Premier League games week in, week out. Swansea’s style of play would suit him as they like to build from the back. Garner’s composure and the ability to pick out a pass as well as scoring goals will help him become the complete midfielder. There are many other clubs who are interested in securing Garner on loan next season such as Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff City. In addition, he could be used in the deal for AWston Villa’s Jack Grealish who United have been linked with.
Wherever Garner goes on loan next season, I am excited to see how he progresses and look forward to seeing him establish a starting place in United’s first team the following season.