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One of the young players who Manchester United loaned out at the start of the season was midfielder James Garner. The 21-year-old joined Championship side Nottingham Forest for the second time, following a previous loan spell in the second half of the 2020/21 season.
Garner has so far made seven appearances for United’s first team during his career and he thrived at Forest last season, as Steve Cooper’s side earned promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs. Garner helped Forest reach the topflight for the first time since their relegation in the 1998/99 season.
His loan spell at the then Championship outfit finishing with their promotion seemed like a fitting end for a move which has certainly been a success for the player. The midfielder got the opportunity to play regular football, for one of the best sides in the league.
Garner’s performances for the club also helped him to become a regular for England under-21s, and he started their most recent game at the time of writing.
He played a pivotal role in midfield last season, showing off his excellent defensive capabilities, averaging 1.9 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per 90 minutes.
His work rate was also excellent, and he often provided a burst of energy from midfield to help drive his team on.
The 21-year-old also contributed to some big goals. He scored four times and assisted 10 goals in all competitions. Some of these assists came from set-pieces, an area which United have notoriously struggled in recently, especially in the first half of last season.
These are good numbers, especially for someone who often plays as a deeper lying midfielder, with the license to get forward at times.
The big conundrum for Erik ten Hag next season is whether to loan Garner out once again or bring him into the first team at United. A large part of this decision could rest on which midfielders United sign this summer.
Although, Jonathan Schrager has reported that the Dutch manager wants to assess the young midfielder during pre-season, no matter whether he's set for a loan move or not.
The Red Devils have recently been heavily linked with Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, who played under ten Hag at Ajax. It remains to be seen whether United will even pursue a deal for de Jong, although there will almost certainly be at least one incoming midfielder, following the departure of the likes of Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba.
It may well be the case that United bring Garner into the first team, regardless of how many midfielders are brought in this summer.
Many people believe this is an opportunity he deserves following his loan spell last season. He could well compete for a starting spot in midfield.
An alternative option that United have is to loan Garner back out once again, this time to a Premier League club. With Nottingham Forest now in the division, he could well return there.
He could also feasibly move to another club in the top flight, with United only considering a loan move in the division, as per Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News.
While Phil Hay of The Athletic has also reported that Leeds made enquiries about the central-midfielder in the back-end of last season.
Should Garner leave on loan, gaining Premier League experience by playing regularly would be invaluable for his development going forward. It also depends on who United sign to strengthen the midfield. If a player is signed who is of a similar profile to Garner, it may also mean he should go out on loan to ensure the playing time he deserves.
Whatever decision is made on Garner, it will be exciting to see his development next season, be it at United or another Premier League club. He certainly has the potential to be an important player in Erik ten Hag’s side in the coming years.
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