Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick has been told he already has a player at his disposal who could be the ideal replacement for Paul Pogba. Pogba is out of contract this summer and has refused to put pen to paper on a new contract.
United paid a then world record £89million to sign Pogba for a second time in 2016 – four years after the ace left Old Trafford for free. The midfielder returned to Manchester from Juventus and was heralded as a player who could almost single-handedly help United return to their glory years.
But the 29-year-old has been rocked by a series of injuries and has suffered from inconsistent form during his second stint in the Northwest. And he has been tipped to leave the club once and for all at the end of the season.
United will be undeniably disappointed to lose such a valuable asset without receiving a transfer fee. And club chiefs may worry that they could be forced to spend huge sums of money to find another player to fill Pogba’s shoes.
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But their problems can be solved by their 21-year-old academy graduate James Garner. Garner made seven appearances for United’s first team, including four times in the 2019-20 Europa League when his team reached the semi-finals before being sent off by Sevilla.
The midfielder was loaned out to Championship side Watford for the first half of last season, before spending the second part of the campaign on a temporary spell at Nottingham Forest. He returned to City Ground last summer to begin a season loan and has become a key player in Forest’s midfield.
Garner has made 71 appearances in England’s second division in the past two years, excelling against players with years of experience at that level. And his Forest team-mate Jack Colback believes Garner will make his mark in the Premier League in the future.
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“For me, he has all the necessary attributes,” Colback said. “He’s very good on the ball – technically his passing range is excellent. But he also has the other side, which is defensively – I don’t think he gets the credit – but he is very good defensively. He covers a lot, gets a lot of tackles and you need that.
“Like any player you have to keep your head down, keep working, never think you’ve done enough – but Jimmy will have as good a chance as anyone.”
United’s technical director Darren Fletcher has already said Garner will be part of the Premier League giants’ pre-season plans. So if the youngster can impress on the training pitch along with his superstar teammates, he may well get the chance to fill Pogba’s void.
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