James Garner could be on his way out of Manchester United, according to reports.
The youngster, whose pre-season was impacted by injury, has been an unused substitute in both of the club’s opening two Premier League matches of the campaign.
Reports on Monday indicated United are willing to sell one of their best young assets in order to strengthen their first-team squad after a disastrous opening to the new campaign.
But what exactly has been reported, and is this the correct decision from the Red Devils?
What’s the latest?
The Athletic reported that Garner is available for a price of around £14m. They also claimed it’s unclear if Nottingham Forest will return for the midfielder, after his successful loan spells at the club, but Everton, Southampton and Leeds United are interested in signing him.
However, the Manchester Evening News believe Garner could cost between £15m-£20m.
Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano tweeted to say that ‘talks are ongoing’ and stated Tottenham Hotspur are unlikely to make a move for the player.
Fellow journalist James Robson claimed via Twitter that the decision to sell Garner is due to a lack of money received from departures of other players, who they had hoped to sell in order to ‘boost funds’ this summer.
Garner’s career to date
The Merseyside-born midfielder has risen through the ranks at United and first began making an impression on the senior side during Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Old Trafford.
But it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who handed a 17-year-old Garner his first-team debut in a win away to Crystal Palace in March 2019.
He made six senior appearances the following campaign before being sent on loan ahead of 2020/21. The move to Watford had mixed results for Garner, who switched to Forest in January.
At the City Ground, the shy youngster thrived, becoming a regular under Chris Hughton and he was sent back to Nottingham last season, where he helped guide the club to promotion.
Garner played 40 league games last term and developed his game immensely. The 21-year-old has already demonstrated an ability to control the pace and flow of a game, has an excellent range of passing and isn’t afraid to put in a challenge.
Many believed he would have a role to play this season under Erik ten Hag, especially given the deficiencies in United’s midfield. But it appears that is now not the case.
Should United cash in?
In recent years United have opted to stockpile players, leading to illogical decisions such as not moving on Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata last year, and despite several big names leaving this summer, United’s squad remains bloated.
So selling a underage talent, under the right circumstances, is a sensible and rational choice. Last summer, Chelsea sold protegees Marc Guehi, Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham for an estimated combined figure of around £115m, which was reinvested back into the squad.
Liverpool have moved on Neco Williams, Taiwo Awoniyi, Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster for an immense profit in recent years, while Manchester City have sold Gavin Bazunu, CJ Egan-Riley and Romeo Lavia in the current window, with the latter including a price match agreement and sell-on clause as part of the deal.
Yet, there doesn’t appear to be a similar logic with United’s decision on Garner, who many feel isn’t far off the standard required to occupy a place in Ten Hag’s squad.
But £15m for a player who has such a bright future and is now playing regularly at England Under-21 level feels a little on the cheap side. In comparison, Brewster moved to Liverpool for a reported fee of close to £23m.
There’s also the glaringly obvious fact that United have several others they should look to move on before Garner, namely: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
There’s a case for selling Brandon Williams or Donny van de Beek, as well as the surplus of underage wingers currently on the club’s books.
Garner very much looks like a player who could make strides towards the England squad in the next few years, and, at 21, already possesses enough quality to play in the Premier League.
Given their current lack of midfielders who are composed in possession, this is a player United really should be keeping.