Home » James Garner could be Frenkie de Jong alternative according to The Athletic

James Garner could be Frenkie de Jong alternative according to The Athletic

by David O'Neill

Manchester United’s stuttering pursuit of Frenkie de Jong could force the club to think outside the box in looking for midfield reinforcement.

Erik ten Hag has already spoken of his desire to get the “right one” in for the deep playmaker role, which seems an incredibly thinly veiled way of saying “De Jong or bust.”

He has also committed to “develop one in that position” should the club fail to recruit such a player this summer.

And according to The Athletic, among United’s current midfielders, the one most capable of “becoming De Jong” is James Garner.

The promising youngster has returned from a successful loan spell at Nottingham Forest, where he helped them to secure promotion to the Premier League.

According to data from Smarterscout, last season the 21-year-old was rated at 80 out of 99 for progressive passing ability when adjusted for Premier League standard.

Working the ball up the pitch is exactly where United have struggled over the past couple of seasons, with Scott McTominay and Fred often ineffective in beating a press and feeding attackers.

As pointed out by Carl Anka and Mark Carey, Garner would need to learn “when and where to counter-press and be more courageous when dribbling through crowded Premier League midfields,” were he to aspire to the role De Jong played under Ten Hag at Ajax.

Under Steve Cooper, the young midfielder was tasked with a more direct game, with a heavy focus on maintaining shape at the expense of concerted pressure.

That has had an affect on his passing accuracy and ball recovery rate (80.67% and 5.5 recoveries per 90 minutes respectively), and one would hope that in a more possession-centric side he could improve those numbers.

But it will take work on the training ground if he is to really stake a claim for a starting position.

In that regard, he has not had the best of starts, having only just been integrated into first team training in the past week.

He has, however, spoken of his desire to impress the new manager and is expected to grab any opportunity with both hands.

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