Manchester United were busy in late the transfer window dealing with outgoings.
Among these were finding new loan clubs for players whose original loan spells did not work out.
James Garner signed with Nottingham Forest after United cut short his spell with Watford.
Tahith Chong secured a move to Club Brugge after struggling at Werder Bremen.
There were high hopes for all four back in the summer when they first landed their moves. For various reasons none of them worked out.
What went wrong?
Garner‘s problems at Watford were pretty easy to pinpoint. He was playing regularly, making 12 league starts before Watford sacked manager Vladimir Ivic.
His replacement Xisco Munoz did not take a liking to Garner and preferred a system with two central midfielders rather than three, and so he sat on the sidelines for a month.
United did well to recognise this and find Garner a manager at Forest who will give him more of a chance. Chris Hughton described him as a ‘valuable asset’, speaking to Forest’s website. He is too good to be wasted on Watford’s bench.
Tahith Chong signed with Werder Bremen with high hopes. Serge Gnabry, Mesut Ozil and Kevin de Bruyne had all spent early parts of their careers there successfully. There was even speculation his loan move could be two years rather than one before the move was announced. Instead it lasted just six months.
Chong began really well, scoring regularly for Werder in pre-season and one in the German Cup, but at Bundesliga level he never got going.
As time went on he played less and less, and became more erratic, giving away a penalty in one disappointing display. He had one assist, but failed to kick on after this. After a poor performance against Leverkusen on January 9 in which he was substituted after an hour, he did not play a single minute.
Frank Baumann, Werder sporting director, told the club’s official website: “Tahith has enormous talent and potential. Which he hinted at for us again and again in the games. But we have always emphasised that it takes a certain amount of time for him to constantly tap this potential.
“Since we couldn’t guarantee him more playing time for the rest of the season due to the competitive situation with us, he approached us with the request to end the loan early.”
Club Brugge have snapped him up and Chong has a chance to play Europa League football. It might just work out.
Matej Kovar began relatively well at Swindon. His deal being cut short comes down to a similar reason as James Garner, a change in manager.
Manager Richie Wellens left the club in November to take up a post with Salford City.
Kovar subsequently went in and out of the side and at the start of January Swindon made their intentions clear to sign another goalkeeper, which was announced shortly after his deal was cut short.
The young goalkeeper said after the deal was terminated, ‘I know I didn’t show the quality what I’m capable of’.
He played 19 games for the club, but it was always going to be tough to shine for a team who Swindon were in 23rd out of 24 teams when the deal was cut short.
Kovar is back with United’s under-23s and seems to be enjoying his football again.
One move which was particularly disappointing was Dylan Levitt‘s switch to Charlton.
United took a while to choose which club he would head to, and chose the Addicks because of their track record of bringing in young players.
It is hard to pinpoint why exactly Levitt’s spell went so badly, but it is fair to say he did not seize his chances, and manager Lee Bowyer preferred to use more experienced options.
Levitt then also had to spend two weeks isolating due to Covid and lost all momentum. It was no surprise at all that his deal was terminated early.
So difficult to get right
It is a positive that United have taken a proactive approach with all four players, to get them out of the situations they were in.
In the case of Kovar and Levitt, it is a case of building their confidence back up now, via under-23 football.
Finding new clubs for Garner and Chong is decisive management, and both Forest and Club Brugge could be good clubs for them, but you never really know.
Finding a stable club is important, and United walked right into the Garner situation, knowing Watford’s tendency to sack their managers so frequently.
At times all you can do is write it off and have another go, and that’s what United have done here. With Garner and Chong, and fellow loanees Laird, Pellistri and Mengi, there is no guarantee any of these will be successful, but at least United are trying.
Solskjaer told United’s club website: “One of the big learning points on your first loan is learning how to cope with the situation, learn in a different environment. Jimmy has played quite a bit. Lately, when the new manager came in, they felt – and we felt – it was more right for him to find somewhere else. For Tahith, it didn’t really work out the way we wanted, but still he’s had some exposure. Let’s hope they kick on now.”
United are taking an active interest in trying to use the loan market to the club’s advantage and give talented young players vital experience. For better or worse, they will be stronger for it.
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