Manchester United have themselves a wealth of talented young stars coming through at the moment with the likes of Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes all making an impact. Perhaps one of the most exciting of the new crop is James Garner – a central midfielder with all the tools to become a mainstay in United’s midfield.
Garner is 18-years-old and hails from Birkenhead in Merseyside. He’s been with Manchester United since 2009, when he was 8 years old. Having spent his entire life so far playing for United’s academy side, he started to break through into the first team squad last year. Having been invited on the 2018 pre-season tour of the United States, he started to appear on more and more teamsheets. He was even named on the bench for a Champions League group stage match against Valencia at Old Trafford.
Back in February, he managed to go one better as he made his debut for Manchester United off the bench at Crystal Palace. He replaced Brazilian midfielder Fred late on in a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park. A few weeks later, he was rewarded with a new contract which will see him remain at United until June 2022 with an option for a further year.
Last week, as part of United’s pre-season tour once more, this time in Australia, Garner bagged his first goal for United off the bench against Perth Glory. Less than two minutes after coming on late in the game, he drove a low effort into the bottom right corner from outside the area.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you watch Garner play is the way he can spray the ball around the field. He has such fantastic vision on the ball and rarely fails to find a pass. Another thing you’ll see is his top class work rate – especially defensively. He has all the tools to be just as good defensively as he is going forward.
Mentally, Garner is very, very strong considering he’s just 18-years-old. Whenever he’s on the ball, he brings a sense of calm to the whole team. If one of his teammates is under pressure and starts to panic a little, his composure and mature attitude towards the game calms them down – it’s a fantastic trait to have for one so young.
If I was to compare him to a former player, there is a clear candidate – none other than Michael Carrick. One of Carrick’s best attributes was closing down those passing lanes in the middle of the park – it’s an attribute Garner most definitely shares. Going forward, as mentioned above, Garner has a fantastic passing ability – he can pick a pass with the best of them, much the way Carrick could. One thing to note is that he is slightly more attacking than the United legend was, using his power to drive forward with the ball and create chances for his team.
If we’re talking technique, Garner has it in bucket-loads. His ability to strike the ball, pass the ball and move with the ball are all absolutely fantastic. The main area of his game that he will be working on will be his defensive ability as he looks to break into a United midfield that relies on it. To be fair to him, he isn’t in any way defensively inept – he has saved United’s U18 team countless times with crucial blocks, tackles and interceptions.
As I said at the top, Garner has all the tools to be a big part of United’s midfield for many years to come. Once he eventually breaks into that side, you’ll struggle to take him back out of it again.
This season will likely see him start to appear on that United bench more and more as he looks to break through. I can’t see it happening just yet but he should start to make appearances in the cup competitions.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if we see him head out on loan before the season starts. As we saw with Mason Mount last season, it’s a great way to develop your skills before looking to break through into the first team. A season in the Championship certainly wouldn’t go amiss – especially if he isn’t going to play a lot.
What do you think? Should United send him out on loan or keep him at the club? Tell us what you think below.