This season has been one of two distinct halves for Manchester United youngster James Garner.

Last summer, he headed on loan to Watford, started well, then struggled once the Hornets did their usual managerial shuffle.

Sometimes a starter, sometimes a sub and, latterly, overlooked almost entirely, Garner left Vicarage Road and moved to Championship rivals Nottingham Forest.

And that is where he is really proving his worth.

The comparisons between Garner and former United great Michael Carrick are well documented. But the 19-year-old had to wait until February to prove them.

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Since swapping clubs at the turn of the year, the United loanee is blossoming into the player Ole Gunner Solskjaer knows he can become.

The 19-year-old is now one of the first names on Forest’s team sheet. He has played every minute in seven of their last eight league games and was rested for the other.


That is how important Garner is, and he will be hoping to deliver a masterclass against the team that rarely utilised him effectively.

United will be hoping the same. After all, if Garner excels between now and May, he will head back to Old Trafford with the bit between his teeth. He will also have a realistic chance of earning a first-team spot under Solskjaer next season.

A tale of one season

Garner’s situation shows how quickly things change. He will have been frustrated earlier in the campaign after the initial excitement of regular first-team football.

But now he will see a path to United’s senior side.

Garner will not need any more motivation to impress this weekend. The midfielder grabbed his first senior goal last month and don’t be surprised if he has another by full-time on Saturday.

Garner had a decent scoring record for United’s U23s and he will not want to disappoint in any area of his game against a team where things did not quite work out.

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