Manchester United is planning for a massive revamp across the board at the conclusion of the season, and midfield is sure to be one of the areas that sees a lot of movement.
The present priority is to select a manager who will oversee the club for many years to come. But whoever arrives at Old Trafford this summer is certain to want at least a couple additional midfielders to bolster his group.
When Paul Pogba’s contract ends on July 1, he is expected to leave the club. Jesse Lingard is in the same boat, and Juan Mata may retire when his contract expires. Nemanja Matic will turn 34 in August and will be entering the final year of his contract. Donny van de Beek, who is presently on loan with Everton, might depart, while United is looking to sell Andreas Pereira, who is currently on loan with Flamengo.
When you examine the amount of criticism that United’s most common midfield combination, Fred and Scott McTominay, receives on a regular basis, you get a grim image. A midfield reinforcement has been long overdue at United, and it now appears that it will come this summer.
While fresh players are always welcome at Old Trafford, there is also the option of strengthening from within. One of these possibilities is James Garner, who has been impressing while on loan from Manchester United at Nottingham Forest.
Garner, who is still only 21 years old, has long been touted as a first-team prospect at United, and it appears that he may be poised to deliver on that promise. That is partly due to a hot streak at Nottingham Forest, where he has two goals and five assists in the club’s previous ten games in all competitions.
He has already made seven appearances for United in all competitions – but it is his plethora of Championship experience that will serve him well. Garner has appeared in 77 games for Forest and Watford in the last two seasons. And he has a lot of individuals who believe in his ability to make the United first squad.
“I really enjoy exercising with him or watching the under-23 games because you can tell he understands the game.” He makes sound decisions. “He’s a good player, and I like him,” Mata told The Athletic in 2019.
“Another example of this style of player is Isco. He is this gifted player and, if you will, creative soul – he creates. I used to enjoy playing with him (Isco) in Valencia, and I now follow him in Madrid. These types of creative players, with control, a move, or a pass, make football.”
“I always thought he is one of the players that, if he keeps going and progressing, in the way he was doing in the academy, he can be a very, very excellent midfielder,” Mata, his biggest fan, said on the club website in 2020. I appreciate the way he plays on the ball, his cleverness, his style of looking forward, seeking for a pass, and his mentality off the ball.”
Garner could have easily been loaned out to a Premier League club for the 2021/22 season, but he elected to return to Forest, where he spent the second half of last season, after receiving attention from Sheffield United, Stoke City, and Derby County. He has developed a tight relationship with the Championship team and its manager, Steve Cooper, whom he knew through his past work with England under-17s.
According to The Athletic, Forest would love to sign him this summer, especially if their promotion push is successful. Garner, on the other hand, is apparently determined to return to United at the end of the season and compete for a starting spot under the new administration.
That decision could be ideal for United. Garner has already worked with Michael Carrick on his game and appears to have the type of game United is looking for in midfield: tenacity in winning the ball back and, more importantly, quality on it once his side is in possession. Garner is “extremely good technically and he likes to influence the play,” remarked Roy Keane on ITV’s coverage of Liverpool’s 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Forest on Sunday.
United fans will understandably be focused on who may join during the summer transfer window – but the answer to their prayers may already be on the club’s books.