James Garner did all he could to get noticed yesterday in Manchester United’s under-19 game against Club Brugge.
He ran half the pitch with the ball before sliding the ball into the net to wrap up a 2-0 win.
Hours later United’s first team stars laboured to a 1-1 draw in the Europa League against Club Brugge.
It was a rotated team which featured struggling stars Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard. Both players have to be running low on chances.
Garner by comparison is a breath of fresh air and he has played really well when given a chance this season.
He started four Europa League group games, home and away against Partizan Belgrade, away to Astana and at home to AZ Alkmaar.
On each occasion Garner impressed before an injury prevented him from being involved with the first team over the festive fixtures.
United blocked Garner from going out on loan in January with the Evening Standard reporting Solskjaer was determined to provide a pathway to first team football for the teenager.
Playing in the under-19s instead of the first team’s two legged knockout tie seems like a blow, but it might have been what Garner needed to fast track his progress.
Garner trained with United’s first team in Spain last week and he remains in Solskjaer’s thoughts.
His impressive solo goal sent a message yesterday that he is too good for this level and needs to be playing for the first team.
Garner has been previously billed as a defensive midfielder heading into this season, and that was the role he effectively played away at Partizan.
This season though he has really developed the attacking side of his game, with six goals in nine for the under-23s plus a goal in the EFL Trophy.
At just 18 Garner is developing more as a box to box midfielder and this can only help his chances of fitting into an evolving Manchester United midfield.
With Paul Pogba AWOL and a clear need to rotate, there is a growing case for Solskjaer to take another look at Garner.
Pereira is struggling and at this stage it feels like we have almost seen enough. Let’s take a look at what Garner can offer the team give the same opportunities.
One fixture stands out for a potential opportunity, the FA Cup tie away at Derby County in early March. A midfield of Garner, a returning Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes would have the quality to win that game.
It is time for United to start mixing Garner in, otherwise not letting him go on loan will be a waste.
You would imagine Solskjaer has a plan, but after yesterday, he might need to speed it up.
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