Manchester United have a rich history of producing gem after gem through their academy, and the next player off the production line looks to be midfielder James Garner.
The 20-year-old, who has managed seven appearances for United’s first team in the past, has penned a new long-term contract at Old Trafford and jetted off for a second spell on loan with Championship side Nottingham Forest.
His stock is only going to keep rising, so it’s time to get to know him a little better.
On paper, Garner is a defensive midfielder, but he’s not exactly known for his defending.
With a similar play style to Paul Pogba, Garner is a competent defender who prefers to sit deep and recover the ball, before using one of the many weapons in his arsenal to move forwards.
You’ll regularly see Garner bombing forward with the ball at his feet or getting the team moving with some quick passing – just make sure you play him alongside an actual defensive midfielder.
With Garner’s style and his upbringing at United, comparisons to Michael Carrick have never been far away.
“I believe he’s got the chance to have a great future,” said manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (via MEN). “He knows we believe in him, we’ve got great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick.
“He’s the same mould, he plays simple passes, plays through the lines.”
Up until the age of 15, Garner actually played as a centre back, but his ability going forwards began to flourish and convinced coaches that he should be pushed up into midfield.
Having said that, you’ll still see Garner’s experience at the back come into play during games. When he’s not bombing forwards, he’ll drop into centre back to provide extra cover for the marauding wing backs either side of him.
Garner isn’t an elite defender by any means, but he can more than hold his own in the tackle.
There’s a growing belief that Garner only scores bangers.
Coming up through United’s academy, Garner regularly made the senior highlight real with goal-of-the-month candidates, and he won the Premier League 2 goal of the season with a stunning strike from range against West Brom.
He’s translated that to senior football, firing home some absolute screamers for Forest, the best of which was this absolute screamer against Preston.
Garner’s greatest weapon is his passing. Calm under pressure, the young midfielder thrives when given the responsibility of setting the tempo.
He can pull out some clever passes to find his team-mates in space, but Garner is excellent with cross-field passes to switch the play and get his team moving forward in the blink of an eye.
That comfort with the ball at his feet makes Garner a dead-ball specialist. He is sublime from free-kicks and corners and really does not get the assist numbers he deserves.
Standing at 5’10, Garner has the kind of frame needed to compete aerially, but his lack of physicality often lets him down in the air.
In senior football, and particularly a physical league like the Championship, Garner has found himself bullied by a lot of bigger, wiser forwards, although he does deserve credit for continuously throwing his body into the challenges.
It’s clear that Garner still needs to fill out his gangly frame, but until he gets there, expect opposition teams to target his weakness.
Garner has worked under some of the best coaches around at United, including Carrick, who took the youngster under his wing and helped him pick up some of the traits that worked so well for him in the past.
“It sounds so basic but some of the basic things are hardest to do. If things are playing on your mind, it will help you with a split second more time, so it’s definitely something that has helped me and will continue to help me,” he told United’s official website of his individual sessions with Carrick.
“[The sessions were] literally just that. Buying yourself that extra split second. Always looking forward, always thinking forward, always having a picture in your head before you receive the ball. Things like this. It’s just having the idea, and he said to me if you’re thinking about doing that before the game, it will just naturally come when the ball does come. You’re already thinking about what you are going to do.”