James Garner: The Next Michael Carrick?
After failed summer moves for the likes of Declan Rice and Sean Longstaff, and the departures of Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera, United have been left thin in midfield, often devoid of both creativity, and protection to the back line. Whilst are some are already looking for possible solutions in the January transfer window, perhaps United should look a little closer to home to find an answer to their midfield problems.
Born in Birkenhead, Liverpool, James Garner made the trip up the M62 and joined Manchester United as an 8 year old. Developing and pushing through the ranks, at age 16 he would make his debut for the U18s side, before going on to captain the side to the Premier League North title in 2018. “Jimmy” as his mates call him, also captained England’s u17s side as they reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in 2017. At age 17, he was given his professional debut at Selhurst Park as Manchester United won 3-1 away to Crystal Palace, before embarking on United’s pre-season summer tour of 2019.
But less of the statistics and general knowledge. Let’s talk about what James Garner could already bring to Manchester United’s first team.
After the match at Selhurst Park, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke to MUTV about just how highly rated he is at the club. “He knows we believe in him, we’ve got great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick,” Solskjaer said. “I know he’s young and I know it’s not fair on kids to compare great players like Michael was, but he’s the same mould. He plays simple passes through the lines.”
Manchester United have often cried out for someone in the midfield to ease the burden Paul Pogba often carries alone when transitioning the ball from defence to attack, and while the addition of Harry Maguire in defence has helped in this issue, United’s other midfielders struggle at times to get the ball forwards whilst being pressed. Garner would certainly help in this aspect. Whilst he is energetic and strong, he also possesses the nous and awareness to receive the ball in midfield and turn and play forward. Garner also has the ability to play a killer long ball over the top, as seen in his games for the u23’s. Solskjaer often likes to use runs in behind defences as United look to counter against their opposition, and with his ability on the ball Garner could definitely find Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and co on the break with ease.
United don’t just struggle in regards to creativity deep in midfield either, they often struggle up the pitch when teams play a low block. In steps Garner again. In the U23’s this season Garner has played 4 times, and been involved in as many goals, scoring 3 and assisting one, with a notable long range strike against West Brom. The midfielder possesses a great long distance strike, and this could help United greatly to get goals against sides that sit off and offer space in the midfield.
Defensively, Garner is no slouch. The 18 year old has often played at centre back for the youth sides during his time at United, sometimes playing in that position against opponents who are older than him. Like Carrick, Garner doesn’t rely on his physicality to defend against opponents, rather he’s tenacious in the tackle, quickly getting a foot in before the opponent can settle on the ball, as well as being able to read the game and use his, quite deceptive, pace to intercept the ball before beginning the transition from defence to attack.
Whilst many are clamouring for the likes of Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong to start, James Garner has comparatively flown a little under the radar. However with United’s limited midfield options, and Solskjaer’s desire to play energetic pressing, transition based football, Manchester United could do worse than to look at Garner as an option. He will certainly get his chance with the upcoming Europa League group games and the initial rounds of the EFL cup, and should he take it, United may find they have a real star on their hands, perhaps even “The Next Michael Carrick?”