The matchday squad chosen by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for Sunday’s Premier League opener against Chelsea featured no fewer than seven players schooled in the club’s own academy, with as many as five of those in the starting line-up for the 4-0 thrashing.
Garner, who made his United debut aged 17 against Crystal Palace around nine weeks after Solskjaer took over midway through last season, was not involved. But he will be soon enough.
Two days before the senior stars were hammering Chelsea, the club’s Under-23 team thrashed West Brom 5-0 in their Premier League 2 opener. Garner, a defensive midfielder, scored twice.
His first of the game was a long range effort that flew into the top corner, his second a jink and finish from just inside the penalty area reminiscent of Paul Scholes. Fans, of course, saw the low drive he scored during the first team’s pre-season win over Perth Glory last month.
Garner turned 18 years of age in March and it seems as though he already needs a greater test than offered at Under-23 level. The Manchester Evening News now writes that Garner has been ‘promised playing time in the first team’, suggesting chances will come before long.
United were strong at the back and lethal up front in Sunday’s win over Chelsea, but the midfield was worryingly porous. There were ultimately no midfield signings made during the summer and it showed, with Nemanja Matic still getting picked. Even Scott McTominay was underwhelming, despite a strong end to last season and commanding pre-season displays.
It is situations like these where young players can come to the fore to prove themselves.
It will be easier for Solskjaer to offer chances to the likes of Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes, players whose positions higher up the pitch are out of harm’s way and more naturally forgiving when it comes to making mistakes. It will also take some time for Garner to physically mature.
“He knows we believe in him. We have great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick,” Solskjaer said of Garner to MUTV back in February following his senior debut.
“I know he’s young and it’s not fair on kids to compare them to great players like Michael was, but he’s in the same mould. He can see the game; he plays simple passes; he sees through the lines. Michael had pressure coming in after Roy Keane, so it’s just the way it is at United.”
United have been invested in academy players in an unrivalled capacity for over 80 years, with at least one home grown player named in every single matchday squad since October 1937. That run will reach its 82nd anniversary in a couple of months and shows no signs of ending.