James Garner has had a promising season at Manchester United, in which he made six first team appearances.
With the last of them coming back in December, Garner should be not just hungry to push on, but ravenous by now.
Garner has been training with the first team squad since June although like young teammates Teden Mengi and Tahith Chong, he has not made a matchday squad since the restart.
This week though has had a few pertinent reminders for him that he has to find a way to step up and force his way into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans.
Here are three reasons why it is a significant week for Garner…
One year since pre-season strike
It shows how out of sync the football season is, that this time last year Manchester United were on pre-season tour of Australia.
It was on July 13 last year, a year ago on Monday, that Garner scored in United’s first game of the tour, a 2-0 victory over Perth Glory.
After coming on as a late substitute, Garner grabbed his chance. After taking a touch, he rifled a shot from outside the area into the bottom corner.
Just 18 at the time, Garner’s goal was a sign of things to come as he went on to produce a prolific goalscoring season from midfield at under-23 level, in which he netted eight goals in 10 games.
First visit to Selhurst since United debut
Manchester United visit Selhurst Park tonight to take on Crystal Palace.
It was in the 90th minute of the corresponding fixture last February that Garner made his debut.
Garner was just 17 at the time, and as United visit the stadium this week, the youngster is still on the fringes of the first team.
The young midfielder may not make the matchday squad as he has not yet since the restart. This fixture should give him a reminder that he needs to step it up.
United’s need for ball-playing midfielder highlighted
As Manchester United’s tired midfield laboured against Southampton, the team was crying out for a confident player to get control of the game.
Neither Scott McTominay or Fred were able to make an impact as they had hoped. Garner has the potential to be the player United need in these situations.
He is confident on the ball, unafraid to put a tackle in, and has an array of passing which can look Pogba-esque at times.
United need a younger, more mobile Nemanja Matic, and if Garner can show signs of fulfilling this gap in the squad, he will get more game time.
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