Manchester United fans were eager to see how James Garner progressed after impressing last season during his loan stint with Nottingham Forest. There was an expectation that new manager Erik ten Hag would play the young Englishman in order to see whether he would remain a part of the first team squad ahead of the new season.
However, a small injury has meant the 21-year-old has not yet featured in any of the two pre-season games so far. But he was seen back in training and there is a high chance that the United academy graduate will finally get a chance against Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
And now the England U-21 international has revealed that he is willing to play in a couple of positions and is desperate to impress the new boss after a highly successful loan spell.
“Personally, I’m not too fussed if I play as a 6 or 8. Throughout the academy I played as a deeper lying 6. People maybe questioned whether I could score and create but when I got to the 21s I showed I could also play box to box,” he was quoted as saying.
🗣 James Garner: "This season I’ve played as a 6, 8 and in the No 10 position. For me, I enjoy 6 or 8 as long as playing. In the academy, I was always a centre-back at six or seven but got moved into midfield and it went from there. I’m enjoying my time." [MEN]
— Utd District (@UtdDistrict) July 17, 2022
His versatility might benefit him in Ten Hag’s system. Garner has a solid passing range, can dictate play from deep and is equally adept at doing the dirty work.
His academy training involved playing as a defender which has helped him hone the defensive side of his game. With United’s squad crying out for a defensive-minded player who is comfortable with the ball, the England U-21 international might fit the bill if he can sufficiently impress the new boss in the remaining tour games.
“This season I’ve played as a 6, 8 and in the No 10 position. For me, I enjoy 6 or 8 as long as I’m playing. In the academy, I was always a centre back at six or seven but got moved into midfield and it went from there. I’m enjoying my time.”
Garner as De Jong alternative
United’s midfield has not seen any additions so far with the club still trying to figure out the whole Frenkie de Jong situation with Barcelona.
The Old Trafford club’s options at the centre of the park are quite limited especially following the departure of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard. Garner could solve a host of problems in case De Jong does end up staying in Catalunya.
The youngster has had three different loan spells, each with varying degrees of success. But his stock rose rapidly at Forest last term, especially when Steve Cooper came to the club.
Fans were delighted with his displays and most thought he could force his way into the Dutchman’s plans. They will hopefully get a chance to see the Merseyside-born player in action.
He had scored at the Optus Stadium the last time the Reds had come to Australia on tour. Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage have already got their chance and have made quite the impression. Belatedly, it might finally be Garner’s time to shine.
“Australia has good memories for me. Last time I was here I ended up scoring so if I get my chance when we go to Perth and I’m playing hopefully I can get another goal.”