Manchester United’s decision to loan James Garner out again this season raised some eyebrows. After all, the midfielder impressed in the Championship last year and he has long been tipped as the heir apparent to Michael Carrick.
United are not exactly flush with quality central midfielders. Scott McTominay is the best of the bunch, while Fred flatters to deceive and time is catching up with Nemanja Matic.
With those options, Garner may have expected to get a shot. Instead, he is back out on loan.
In hindsight, that move looks foolish. Fred has looked out-of-sorts all season and is now banned due to Brazil’s intervention. McTominay has already been injured once (although he could be back this weekend). And Matic is going backwards fast.
As good as United are up front and in defence, midfield remains an issue.
Garner is now 20 and should have got a chance. He did nothing wrong in pre-season and showed last season what he can do with a little faith.
One wonders if the youngster will finally get his shot when Matic leaves. But it shouldn’t take that long.
This should have been Garner’s season
United have a rich history of blooding youngsters. Central midfield is no different, with Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes excelling after early debuts.
Garner may be inexperienced, but he wouldn’t be any worse than Fred or Matic. Had McTominay not recovered quickly from his setback, genuine questions would have been asked of Ole Gunner Solskjaer.
As it is, United should be fine as domestic action returns. But one wonders why Garner wasn’t kept in the fold.
He could have rightly felt his time was no after excelling at Nottingham Forest. He bossed games during his 22 appearances and even chipped in with four goals.
Three of those came in his last eight outings, showing what he can do when settled.
It is further back where he does his best work. He is an excellent passer and is composed on the ball.
Those attributes are exactly what United are missing in midfield. In time, Garner should excel. It is just a shame that it’s not this season.