Erik ten Hag may have a decision to make this summer after Manchester United’s ‘new Michael Carrick’ has impressed this season, with the Red Devils needing midfielders
Garner has been a huge part of Forests’ season, and they could return to the Premier League after a 23-year absence from the top flight. They face Bournemouth on Tuesday night to determine whether automatic promotion is still possible, or whether they must tackle the play-offs instead.
The loan star has scored four goals in 39 appearances from midfield, and was once dubbed as the ‘new Carrick’ by former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And the Norwegian may still be right in his assessment, giving Ten Hag a decision to make this summer.
Solskjaer handed Garner his United debut back in February 2019, as he came on for Fred in the final minute of their 3-1 against Crystal Palace. And following the game, Solskjaer said: “He has a great future. He’s in the same mould as Michael Carrick. It puts pressure on him to be compared to Carrick, but that is what it’s like to be at Man United.”
And although Solskjaer was sacked by United at the end of last year, he clearly did what was best for Garner last summer. Solskjaer sealed Garner a late loan switch to Forest in August, and it’s a move that’s done wonders for all parties.
Solskjaer said ahead of his loan move: “I would definitely think Jimmy will go on loan. That’s more or less done. He’s done really well in pre-season and he’s really impressed me, and I think for his career, another season, or another six months now to start with, playing regularly in the Championship will help him.”
And Garner has thrived under Forest boss Steve Cooper, who is looking to achieve promotion after losing in the play-off final with Swansea last season. Cooper has showered Garner with praise, as he told The Athletic : “I knew him from his England Under-17 days, where he was captain, so we had a relationship before here.
“He has been excellent. Over recent months he has been a high-performing player in the team. He has been a constant selection for us. The loan is proving to be a really beneficial one. It is important now that he stays at the same level for the run-in.
“He needs to get to the end of the season and be able to say that he is a better player than he was before he came here. That is always the objective of a loan. We are very happy with him. We work very hard with him and he works very hard himself.”
United are in need of a new midfielder, and with Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba all expected to leave, with Nemanja Matic confirming his departure, it may mean Garner has a chance. Donny van de Beek is already expected to be given a second chance under Ten Hag, who managed him at Ajax, but the Dutchman will be aware of Garner’s progress.
Garner is now 21, but was given his debut by Solskjaer at the age of 17. And the midfielder is getting to the age where he either sticks around at United while hoping for his chance, or seeks a move elsewhere.
One thing that’s for sure is that Forest would take him back in a heartbeat, and it might be the logical move if they achieve promotion. But with the midfield area needing urgent attention at United, Garner could be the unlikely hero under Ten Hag.