United youngster James Garner challenged to kick on even further amid Forest's promotion push

Manchester United youngster James Garner has been challenged to kick on even further by Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper.

The 21-year-old has been a driving force in Forest’s promotion bid and he’ll be hoping to finish his season-long loan spell by helping the City Ground side secure a return to the top-flight.

The England Under-21 international’s influence and importance in Cooper’s side looks to be growing as the season develops.

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Garner has started the last 25 matches for Forest across the Championship and FA Cup, but tiredness isn’t something the Manchester United academy graduate is likely to suffer from.

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From 39 matches this season, Forest’s number 37 has four goals and seven assists to his name.

But Cooper, who previously managed Garner when he was the manager of the England Under-17s side, wants Garner to get even better in the closing stages of the campaign.

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Speaking via NottinghamshireLive, the former Swansea City manager said: “He’s definitely been on an upward trajectory, probably since he got back in the team. He came on against Reading (in November), and then he got in the team after that.

“He’s performed really, really well. I spoke to him at length the other week about that. And he did well for England Under-21s as well.

“It’s about him understanding that he’s playing well, but, more importantly, understanding why he’s playing well and making sure he doesn’t take any backward steps in not producing game in, game out. I really think he’s found his athletic legs now for the Championship. He’s a strong runner.

“He’s able to produce that game in, game out. And we know he has the ability.”

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With third-placed Forest six points behind second-placed Bournemouth with seven Championship games remaining, Cooper doesn’t want Garner to take his foot off the gas.

Cooper added: “He is a very good example of making sure he finishes the season off strong, because there’s still so much to play for and so many minutes to play. He’s doing really well, but now is not the time to think about how well he’s doing – now is the time to play even better in the next game.

“He’s good for a goal, too. He’s around the set-pieces a lot with his delivery, and he’s a good technician.

“He had a wonderful half-volley diagonal pass against Coventry. When it dropped, you had a feeling he was going to connect with it nicely. I think Brennan got in the way – I think the pass was for Djed!

“He’s got really good technique. His out-of-possession game might go a little bit under the radar, but that’s been really good as well. He reads and intercepts some really important passes, and that’s as pleasing for me as the other stuff.”

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Garner’s pass against Coventry, which can be seen here (2:12) was in the ilk of United legend Paul Scholes.

James Garner’s short-term focus will be helping Forest earn promotion, but just like Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United fans will be eagerly watching to see how he fares under the new manager in pre-season.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.