James Garner got the call he had been waiting for on Monday as he was invited back to train with Manchester United’s first team.
Garner is an exciting talent. He is good enough to start now, and has been unlucky not to have had more of an opportunity in 2020.
He started four Europa League games in the group stages and acquitted himself well, while starring for the under-23s during the season, netting nine goals for the under-23s.
Garner was mixing it with the first team on Monday and will have used the session to remind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer what he is capable of.
The 19-year-old was unlucky not to land a loan deal in January as he has not been utilised in the first team since.
A minor injury over Christmas hampered his progress and prevented United from calling him amid a first team midfield shortage.
Now Garner is competing when the battle for places is more intense than ever thanks to Paul Pogba’s return.
Garner will hope to benefit from the Premier League’s nine substitute rule, and play a part in the final stages of United’s season.
A lot at stake
It might feel like Garner has nothing to lose in this scenario, but that’s not quite true.
The best case scenario is that he gets a chance to step up and seizes it, to the point where he makes it absolutely essential that he is considered part of the first team squad next season.
But if the next few weeks do not go Garner’s way, then his most likely path next season is a loan deal to a Championship club.
This kind of move brings it’s own pitfalls, and upon his return, Garner could find there is even more competition in United’s midfield in the guise of Jude Bellingham, or another summer signing.
So if Garner can make a statement now, he may prompt United to reconsider transfer strategy to fit around his development.
This week was a big step forward for him to rejoin the first team, and he could have a role to play over the next few weeks. It is important that he takes any opportunities he gets.
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