James Garner is in action again tonight for Nottingham Forest as his impressive loan spell continues.

The Manchester United youngster scored his first goal against Derby at the weekend and drew plenty of praise afterwards.

The issue of Garner’s future is a cloudy one. With Forest down in 16th place, there is little chance of them winning promotion to the Premier League and him staying an extra year .

In any case, Garner’s next step should really be at Manchester United.

Garner has already shown himself to be competent enough, starring in four Europa League group stage games in 2019/20, including starting home and away wins over Partizan Belgrade.

The loan down to the Championship has been helpful to sharpening him up. Garner will return as a better player.

Opportunity required

With uncertainty over Paul Pogba’s future, United’s midfield could need a little inspiration. We have been witnessing this over the past month while the Frenchman has been out injured.

Filling Pogba’s shoes may be too tall an order for Garner, but he has strong elements to his game that provide optimism, a willingness to do the dirty defensive work, a wide variety of passing, and an eye for goal.

But really, Garner’s future should not depend on Pogba leaving. United need to make space for him in the squad anyway.

Andy Mitten told United.No that Pogba is open to staying at United and signing a new contract.

 

The player whose role is most under threat from Garner will be Nemanja Matic, who has seen his important to the team wane this season. The 32-year-old has started only nine Premier League games.

Garner can become a young option who Ole Gunnar Solskjaer begins to believe in a little more. United’s midfield of Scott McTominay and Fred is functional, and the youngster can mix it up, with a superior passing range to both players, offering a new alternative next season.

Modest targets

United don’t have to ask too much of Garner straight away. Nobody will be calling on him to start 38 league games.

A more modest target of 15 league starts next season would be a big step forward for a player who is currently still just 19.

Adapting to United’s level is not easy, especially when many supporters are dissatisfied with the club only sitting second in the league, after topping the table in January. For Garner, taking small steps forward is important.

Wycombe Wanderers v Notts Forest - Sky Bet Championship
(Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

United could delay it. He could be loaned to a top flight team, or abroad, but there is no substitute for actually playing regularly at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer and United’s coaches need to be bold, need to be decisive about Garner, and commit to giving him opportunities.

Irrespective of what happens with Pogba, Garner should have a role to play next season at Old Trafford, especially early on, with the Frenchman involved at Euro 2021 along with Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, and Bruno Fernandes.

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