Leading up to the FA Cup third-round tie between Watford and Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised James Garner. The 19-year-old arrived at Watford on a season-long loan in the summer and made his debut for the Red Devils in 2019.
Solskjaer Gives His Say On James Garner
Thoughts About James Garner at Watford
Watford have lots of competition in the centre of the pitch, meaning Garner has not become a mainstay in the starting eleven. Despite that, Solskjaer claimed: “Jimmy [Garner] has done really well [at Watford]…The first four or five months have been really positive for Jimmy.”
The Manchester United boss conceded the sacking of Vladimir Ivic did not help James Garner’s case, saying, “Then there was a change of manager and the new manager has had only two games and Jimmy hasn’t really had a look-in.”
So far this season, Garner found the pitch 19 times, starting 12 of those matches. The defensive-midfielder notched an assist in a man-of-the-match performance against Coventry City at the start of November. The technical player recently featured in an attacking midfield role against Huddersfield Town.
High Praise for the Future
Regardless of the starting competition Garner faces, Solskjaer feels the loan move is exactly what the youngster needs. After all, Garner will face firm competition at Old Trafford when the coaches feel he is prepared to make a first-team impact in Manchester.
“He’s a boy that we really believe in. Of course he needs that game time and exposure and the Championship is a very good level of football, so it’s been really good for Jimmy and hopefully he can fight his way back in the team again.”
Last season, Garner featured in four Europa League matches for the Red Devils, impressing fans with his performances. His experience training with the senior team progressed his play. The improvement came to the fore when, despite being a deeper-lying midfielder, he scored eight times in ten Premier League 2 appearances.
James Garner Admits his Best is Yet to Come
Garner’s style of play is Michael Carrick-esque: simple, technical, and having an eye to play the ball through defensive lines. The no-thrills style of play results in some criticism from a few Hornets supporters. Regardless, even Garner feels his play has not consistently been at the level it should be.
A few weeks ago, on Watford’s Hive Live service, Garner admitted: “I wouldn’t say I’ve been at my best lately…The games have been tough, there have been lots of long balls, second balls, teams with big strikers, tall, aggressive players and lots of set-pieces. I knew that was very important in the Championship and it’s something I need to continue to work on.”
The recent departure of Etienne Capoue helps Garner’s prospects of consistently featuring. With more time will come better adjustment to the physicality of senior-level British football. Xisco Muñoz recently called upon Garner to make a difference when trailing against Swansea City. Even with the return of Will Hughes, it will be impossible for Xisco to ignore the contributions Garner makes when on the pitch.
With Watford sitting sixth in the Championship at the half-way mark of the season, Garner has extra incentive to make a name for himself by helping guide Watford to promotion.