Since the Premier League restart, Manchester United‘s midfield trio has been in fine form. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes has sparked creativity, and Paul Pogba has returned to his previous self. However, the unexpected most important part of that midfield is their Serbian defensive midfielder. Nemanja Matić has just turned 32-years-old, but he has found new energy and is playing better than ever. Unfortunately, he can only keep this up for so long, and James Garner is the perfect replacement for the veteran as he concludes his impressive career.
James Garner is Manchester United’s Next Midfield Maestro
Matić is Key
Statistically, it is no secret that Nemanja Matić is a major part of Manchester United’s midfield. This season, they have kept 16 clean sheets in the 22 games he has played. While he was absent, the team only managed sis. The Serbian’s experience spreads to the entire squad. His defensive abilities made up for mistakes made by United’s defenders this season. On the flip side, his composure on the ball is the key to the Red Devils’ attack, as he is the link between the defence and the duo of Fernandes and Pogba.
Unfortunately, age is an issue. The Serbian has reached the point where he can’t play every game. His energy is important, but when games come thick and fast, he needs someone to take some of the brunt. Scott McTominay and Fred are better suited to a box to box role, and Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira are more offensive players. Coming from the U23’s, Garner is the perfect candidate.
The young Englishman has the qualities required to play this role. Now is the perfect time to bring him in, since he would be able to share game time, and learn from an experienced midfielder. This would prepare him to make the position his when Matić inevitably retires or moves on to another team.
A Future Star Who Needs Game Time
James Garner had a great season before COVID-19 struck. He made ten appearances in the Premier League 2, England’s U23 competition. Playing mostly in the defensive midfielder role, he scored eight goals in his 874 minutes on the pitch. This shows that while he has great defensive qualities, he is best suited for the deep playmaker role. Garner can break up attacks, create tempo in the midfield and transition the ball to the forwards. This is exactly the type of player United need as they rebuild a squad with pace and attacking qualities.
On a financial level, this also makes sense. Manchester United need to improve in some areas to challenge for the title. Nevertheless, their funds are limited. Using Garner would save funds for other transfers, like Jadon Sancho and players in the centre-back and attacker positions, which would be better for the future success of the club.
There have been rumours of a loan move for Garner, especially to a Championship club. This has been a success before, with the likes of Dean Henderson, but it’s always a risk to take. There is no better place for him to learn then with the Manchester United squad, sharing some game time. Garner has been dubbed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the ‘next Michael Carrick’, and this is exactly the type of player they need.
Solskjaer has continued United’s tradition of trusting academy graduates and developing them through the squad. He has done a great job with Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams, who are both playing regularly for the first team. Nevertheless, he has already lost great talents like Angel Gomes and Largie Ramazani, as well as eight other players. It is time for him to trust fan-favourite James Garner before he leaves to pursue more regular game time.