Whenever Manchester United produce another fine academy talent, the youngsters have to face comparisons with the greats of yesteryear. Mason Greenwood has been dubbed the next Robin van Persie repeatedly throughout his short spell in the first team, Brandon Williams has been compared to Patrice Evra and many more throughout the years have had to suffer the same burden. James Garner, though, might be the next Michael Carrick.
They’re not our words. Instead, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted as such shortly before giving Garner his debut against Crystal Palace last season.
The teenager came off the bench at Selhurst Park that evening, keeping his composure as the Red Devils battled their way to all three points.
“I believe he’s got the chance to have a great future,” Solskjaer said at the time of the midfielder.
“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.”
United fans haven’t seen a lot of Garner. Not as much as both they and the player would ideally like.
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The 19-year-old has made just six appearances for the first team this season, with four coming in the Europa League.
But there’s excitement surrounding Garner at present, with Carrick comparisons growing by the week.
He’s been outstanding at youth level this season, catching the eye with his slick and stylish way of playing the game.
The teenage talent has played 10 games in the Premier League 2, scoring an impressive eight goals along the way.
Goals were never a part of Carrick’s game but it appears Garner is already ahead of the Old Trafford legend in that department.
And his team-mates have been raving about his potential, clearly impressed by what they’ve seen at the club’s Carrington training complex.
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Scott McTominay, too, name-checked Garner when asked to name the most talented young players on the club’s books.
“You see Di’Shon [Bernard], Largie [Ramazani], Jimmy [Garner], you see Mason [Greenwood], obviously, coming in and Mason’s on his way to being established,” he said.
“For me, it’s my responsibility – Marcus [Rashford], Jesse [Lingard], the more experienced ones like Juan [Mata], Nemanja [Matic], [Lee] Granty, for example – we’ve got to take a responsibility now to push these younger boys and get them up to a level where it’s justifiable that they’ve reached their potential.
“For everyone at the football club, that’s the primary goal as well. It’s the same for myself: I’m getting pushed by the coaching staff every single day.”
United are likely to give Garner a loan spell at the end of the season.
But his performances at youth level suggest he’s got what it takes to live up to Carrick comparisons at Old Trafford one day.