Erik ten Hag already has the answer to Manchester United midfield dilemma

Erik ten Hag is keen to strengthen the midfield department of his new club this summer. Manchester United have been linked with a number of players including Declan Rice and Frenkie de Jong to name but a few.

It remains to be seen who the Red Devils will target, but they might have an internal solution worth considering. James Garner has spent the year on loan at Nottingham Forest but in the coming weeks, he will return to Carrington.

The United academy graduate achieved promotion to the Premier League on Sunday after playing 90 minutes. Is he good enough for Ten Hag to consider next season?

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Now 21 years-old, the United loanee gained valuable experience at the City Ground this season. He was an ever-present figure for Forest, starting 36 of their 46 Championship matches.

Steve Cooper used a number of different formations from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3, although as the season progressed, he eventually settled on 3-4-1-2 as his go-to choice.

Regardless of the system, Forest largely persisted with a midfield pairing in the middle of the park, with Garner regularly occupying one of those two spots, scoring four goals while registering eight assists.

The majority of his assists originated from dead-ball situations. Cooper harnessed Garner’s ability to deliver from set-pieces, with the English youngster assuming control over most of Forest’s opportunities from corners and free-kicks.

His influence on Forest’s game would not have been as prominent if set-pieces weren’t part of his remit, which isn’t ideal considering the dynamic at Old Trafford, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Alex Telles and Luke Shaw typically governing those situations.

The technique on Garner’s deliveries are also present in open play. In fact, it was his cross which resulted in Forest beating Huddersfield in Sunday’s play-off final. He created such danger with his whipped pass that an opposing defender couldn’t prevent himself from clearing the ball into his own net.

Garner has proved to be an industrious and hard-working talent in Nottingham. His willingness to aggressively regain the ball is a throwback at times. His attitude appears superb and his commitment to the cause is undeniable, although whether his level is high enough for United remains questionable.

Ten Hag will have aspirations to dominate European football in years to come. Fluid offensive football will be demanded by the Dutchman and despite Garner’s potential and promising spell in the Championship, it is reasonable to suggest that he would be little more than a squad player at best in Manchester.

He could likely do a job as a substitute or as an option to be deployed in domestic cup matches but in the Premier League and Champions League, United’s standards have been set by the likes of Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Michael Carrick.

Garner has a solid career ahead of him but if he is to continue thriving, his teammates will have to find ways to mask his limitations while empowering his prowess from set-pieces. Whether that should happen at a new club remains up for debate.

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