On April 2nd, Manchester United loanee James Garner lined up in defensive midfield again for Nottingham Forest to face a Cardiff side who were close to the play-off positions in the Championship. It was his 13th appearance for Forest since joining the side in January.
From early on in the game, Garner showed his good range of passing and defensive positioning.
He was constantly looking forward to play through the lines in the game even though not all of his passes reached their target. He also broke up Cardiff’s play on several occasions with 1 tackle, 3 interceptions and a good clearance from his box in the 90 minutes.
During the loan spell, he has also taken set-pieces for Forest but perhaps his most impressive attribute has been his press resistance. He showed his ability in these areas throughout the match.
Halfway through the first half, Garner arrived late onto a low cross from the right and hit it first time. His controlled shot hit the back of the net. It was his second of three goals so far in 15 appearances for Roy Keane’s pre-Man United team as he was to add to his tally in the following match against QPR.
He was busy into the second half, winning it back on the edge of Cardiff’s box and hitting a left foot low drive which forced the keeper into a save. He helped Forest see out the victory by positioning himself well in front of the defence and disrupting attacks until the final whistle.
He finished the game as man of the match, with a goal, three dribbles and two key passes.
Speaking to MUTV last week, Garner said of his loan that he was ‘feeling settled and welcome’.
Regarding the defensive midfield position, he spoke of being ‘very comfortable’ there, where he ‘can see everything in front of’ him.
He also mentioned how working with Michael Carrick at Manchester United has helped him develop in midfield, saying how he is now ‘always thinking forward, with a picture of what’s around him’ in mind, even before the game starts.
The latest talk, according to The Sun and the Nottingham Post, is that United are considering sending him on a loan abroad after he returns at the end of the season, but there has been interest from Premier League teams according to his agent, Steven Beck.
However, if he continues performing like he has been since January for Chris Hughton’s side, and does it in pre-season for United, there is no reason why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wouldn’t consider keeping and playing him as a holding midfielder next season.
All stats according to whoscored.com.