This article is part of Football FanCast’s Expert Roundup feature, which provides three quotes from those in the know in order to illuminate fundamental strengths, weaknesses, quirks, stylistic comparisons and general observations of players, transfer targets and confirmed signings.
As Manchester United embark on this new adventure involving their talented academy stars, the man leading the charge out of them all is Mason Greenwood. The teenager has caught the eye for the Red Devils with his performances in pre-season, and his goal-scoring start to the current campaign. Beneath him in pecking order, are the likes of Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams, amongst others. But one man (or rather boy) who could be even more important is James Garner.
The 18-year-old hasn’t burst onto the scene yet like Greenwood, but he has found himself on the fringes of the United squad for a number of weeks and months in his fledgling career.
A central midfielder by trade, his displays in the youth academy have considerably raised the excitement levels.
And according to the three experts, it’s no surprise to see why.
The man perhaps most important in how Garner’s career at Old Trafford develops, the United boss appears to be a big fan of the teenage starlet. The Red Devils haven’t had a midfield playmaker since the days of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, and have had to watch Paul Pogba effectively be shoehorned into that position despite it not being his favoured role.
In their academy prospect however, the Manchester side could finally have someone on their hands who looks comfortable sitting deep, and dictating the play.
Here’s what he had to say, per London Evening Standard.
As Solskjaer’s side continue to struggle on the pitch, the big thing the club no doubt needs is its leaders to stand up and be counted.
United need more personality and characters on the pitch and, judging by Fletcher’s comments, Garner certainly has that. The latter has captained the Red Devils’ U18s to the Premier League North title, and also wore the armband at international level with England’s U17s at the European Championships.
Simply put, the first-team could do with a midfield general like Garner in their ranks.
Secret scout – very mysterious indeed. But what the analysis of the midfielder shows, per Daily Mail, is that Garner is someone who brings the best out of those around him, and not just himself.
United have seen the perils of having too many players who appear to be looking out for themselves on the pitch, and in the 18-year-old, have a player who looks to provide the heartbeat of the side. Keeping things ticking, always looking to receive possession and use it well, the Red Devils have been clamouring for the type of midfielder Garner represents.
Amidst all the transfer talk that continues to surround Pogba, it seems almost inevitable the France World Cup winner will eventually be leaving Old Trafford in the near future. His public comments in the summer on wanting a “new challenge“, and his subsequent veiled remark of there being a “question mark” over his United career suggests his heart isn’t truly in it.
But in Garner, they have a homegrown product who embodies this new ethos United are looking to build – young, hungry and committed to the cause. No more mercenaries like Romelu Lukaku or Alexis Sanchez. Academy products who know what it means to play for the club, and are happy to fight for their chance to play.
But equally, the 18-year-old isn’t just some kid who’ll run around the pitch like a headless chicken for the sake of being United through and through.
His technical ability is there for all to see, and the high praise from the experts really suggests he has a bright future at the heart of the Red Devils’ midfield.