Not De Jong or Rice – Juan Mata has already predicted Paul Pogba’s replacement at Manchester United

With Pogba’s exit confirmed, all eyes will be on United to see who will replace him on a long-term basis, and they may already have an answer.

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As Manchester United bid farewell to Paul Pogba, speculation turns to who will be his long-term replacement in midfield – and the club may already have the answer.


James Garner will return to Manchester United this summer after a successful loan spell with Nottingham Forest, which resulted in the academy graduate securing promotion to the Premier League. The goal for the 21-year-old now is to capture Erik ten Hag’s attention this summer.


Garner’s immediate future and inclusion in United’s plans for next season will be decided by the incoming manager. If not, he will most certainly be loaned out again, possibly to Nottingham Forest, but the England Under-21 international has demonstrated that he is ready for his moment in the Premier League.


Ten Hag will have to decide whether he’s ready to compete at the top of the table with United. In doing so, the Dutchman may be taking Juan Mata’s prognosis for Garner into account.


Former Spain international appears to be on his way out of Old Trafford this summer, but only after proving to be a mentor to Garner. And the 34-year-old has great hopes for his United protégé.


“I always believed he is one of the kids 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 remarked ahead of Garner’s loan move to Watford in 2020.


“I admire him because of the way he plays on the ball, his cleverness, his style of looking forward, seeking for a pass, and his mentality off the ball.” So, anytime he came here, I tried to encourage him and tell him what I thought he could be as a player.


“I always tried to push him and give him confidence because I believe that at that age, you need confidence and trust not only from your manager but also from your teammates.” I wish him the best of luck at Watford and am confident he will succeed. As I’ve already stated, he’s a fantastic man and a very excellent player who continues to improve every day.”


Garner will have the opportunity to stake a claim under Ten Hag this summer, and with United prioritizing midfield improvements, it will be intriguing to see if he can sustain the form he displayed at Forest into pre-season. According to Mata’s forecast, the Reds may already have the ideal replacement for Pogba.

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