The loan system can be a mixed bag for sides like Manchester United. For every success story like Jesse Lingard, there is a Tahith Chong, who has struggled for minutes with Werder Bremen and Club Brugge.
But for James Garner, a temporary move to Nottingham Forest has helped springboard the midfielder into the minds of supporters and coaches alike.
The 20-year-old is highly thought of at Carrington, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously comparing him to legendary United midfielder Michael Carrick.
“I believe he’s got the chance to have a great future,” Solskjaer said after his full debut in 2019. “He knows we believe in him, we’ve got great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick.
“I know he’s young and I know it’s not fair on kids to compare to great players like Michael was, but he’s the same mould, he plays simple passes, plays through the lines.”
With opportunities set to be limited this season, Solskjaer opted to send Garner to the Championship, first signing for promotion chasing Watford.
But a managerial change saw the academy graduate drop out of favour completely, with United forced to recall him in January.
Undeterred, Garner swiftly went back to the second tier, this time signing for Nottingham Forest under Chris Hughton.
United academy performance manager Les Parry said the chance to link up with Hughton was one of the determining factors of him going to the City Ground.
“Chris Hughton was one of the attractions for us, to be quite honest with you, with us selecting Forest,” Parry said,
“I think all of our coaches, and myself, have great respect for Chris. He has a great reputation for the way he treats players, which is important for us.
“On top of that, with him really fancying James as a player, and the fact he’s going to treat him well, educate him well, was massive in making the decision.”
That decision has since been firmly vindicated, with Garner enjoying the most consistent run of form in his young career.
In total, he managed four goals in half a season for Forest, although that statistic only told a portion of the story.
He ended his spell on Saturday, scoring a stunning goal from distance in the 2-1 loss to Preston. And Hughton left the door open for another move.
“James knows what we think of him. And Manchester United know what we think of him,” Hughton said after the final day defeat.
“All I can say is we’ve been absolutely delighted with him.
“He’s come in and made an impact. Four goals from a midfield player in less than half a season is a wonderful return.”
Garner has been one of the shining lights in a fairly mediocre season for Hughton’s side, with supporters desperate to see him return next season.
It’s a decision that Solskjaer will have to think very carefully about. While some United fans will want to see him in the first-team picture, It is understood bosses are keen for Garner to pick up even more senior experience in 2021/22, with the idea of a loan move abroad appealing.
But after selecting Hughton for his coaching ability, a return to Nottingham could offer them a safe and sure-fire option.
There is of course the possibility that a side in the Premier League will take a chance on his talents, with the Red Devils then given a crystal clear answer of whether he is ready for the top-flight.
Whichever route Solskjaer and Garner do take, ‘the next Michael Carrick’ appears to be progressing very nicely indeed.
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