Manchester United will be hugely satisfied with the season James Garner has had in the Championship.
The midfielder was sent out on loan to Watford in the summer as he looked to get a full season of first-team football under his belt. The 20-year-old made 21 appearances for the Hornets, but United wanted more.
The Red Devils recalled him from his loan spell at Vicarage Road, sending him to Nottingham Forest for the remainder of the season with a view to him getting more minutes under his belt – such is the high amount of regard he is held in at Old Trafford.
Garner’s game has gone up a level since joining Forest. He’s played 12 times for the Reds and has added real quality to what was a flat, underperforming midfield.
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By the time this season ends, Garner will have made over 40 appearances in the Championship, with the next step for him to get a host of Premier League games under his belt.
According to the Athletic, that’s the route United would prefer Garner to go down, with Forest’s chances of luring him back to the City Ground for another year in the Championship looking very slim.
But all should not be lost for Forest, with Chris Hughton going on record to praise the relationship his side have built with United.
This could well leave scope for further business between the two clubs over the next year or so.
There will be some players at United who have watched Garner go out, get plenty of minutes under their belt and thrive. Those players will be eager to follow in his footsteps.
Ethan Galbraith, for instance, could be among those. The Northern Ireland international has only made one senior appearance for United, and at 19, he was in a similar position to Garner at the start of this season.
You also have Ethan Laird, too. The 19-year-old is currently impressing in League One with MK Dons, and with Yuri Ribeiro’s future up in the air, he could be a shrewd addition at left-back.
Forest would love Garner back, that goes without saying. But as week goes by and each performance gets better and better, the chances of them being able to lure him back decrease as an effect.
But Forest should turn this potential loss into a gain, and take advantage of a blossoming relationship between the two clubs.