It is looking like Manchester United will line up with a new midfield combination against AZ Alkmaar tonight.

Nemanja Matic is set to return, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the club website, and teenager James Garner is expected to also start after coming off early for the under-23s on Monday night.

Garner has two Europa League starts already and one appearance as a substitute and playing alongside Matic could be very good for him.

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

More to offer

Garner is a player who has shown a great eye for goal for the under-23s this season.

He has shown a willingness to shoot from distance and also get forward and join the attack in the 18-yard box. This season for the under-23s he has scored five goals in six games.

For the first team he has not played with the same freedom so far. That’s understandable, he will have been told to keep it simple and master the basics.

On his first start against Partizan he played in a very defensive role. He was very effective and allowed Scott McTominay to get forward.

We have seen enough of Nemanja Matic since his £40 million move in 2017 to know he won’t be the midfielder foraging forward.

(Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images)

Matic is a more specialist defensive midfielder and he will be trying to stick to what he does best.


This should give Garner more license to get forward and join the attack and show some of the goalscoring ability he has shown at academy level.

Garner does not lack confidence, he showed this in pre-season when he netted with his first touch from outside the box against Perth Glory.

Seeing Garner off the leash should be good for both him and United.

He has so much more to offer than he has shown so far in his 201 minutes of first team action this season.

Getting on the scoresheet will signify he is really ready to contribute as a first team player and United need all the options we can get in midfield.

The Garner and Matic combination is pretty low down on United’s list of potential midfield combinations, but with first team stars needing to be rested, and both of them requiring game time, this could be a one and only time to try it out.

It might just be a pairing which works and the 18-year-old could be the big winner.

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