The last round of the FA Cup was a rough ride for Premier League sides. Both West Ham United and Chelsea were taken to extra time by their lower league opponents. Of course, Manchester United were knocked out on penalties by Middlesbrough in a game they really should have won if they had finished just one more of their 30 chances.
But the most embarrassing defeat of the round came when Leicester City were wholly dominated by Nottingham Forest, losing the fixture 4-1 in standard time.
The FA Cup holders were well beaten on the day and only managed a consolation goal due to poor goalkeeping from Forest’s Brice Samba when he came out to claim a loose ball.
Djed Spence was again impressive from right back and got on the scoresheet, justifying his links to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur once again. Still, the performance that most United fans would have been interested in was loanee James Garner.
Garner had gained plaudits for his performance against Arsenal earlier in the competition, but you always want to ensure that this isn’t just a flash in the pan.
So how did he perform against Leicester?
Well, it was his corner kick that led to Forest’s third goal. If you contrast that with United’s current fortunes, the club has taken over 100 corners this season and scored precisely zero goals, so he already has that over any current team member.
Garner also completed 100% of his tackles in the game and 83% of his passes, showing how he could help Forest control the midfield both in and out of possession.
The MEN Sport understands that United briefly considered recalling the midfielder in the January window due to Donny van de Beek’s departure and the potential departure of Jesse Lingard, leaving them light in the midfield areas. Still, ultimately they decided it was better for the young Englishman to continue his development with regular game time.
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Sources close to the player also believe that if he gives a good account of himself on loan with Forest, he may play his way into the first-team plans of the next manager. Especially when you account for the contract situation of Paul Pogba and the uncertain future of Van de Beek.
Forest’s next game in the FA Cup will be against Huddersfield, setting up a Championship clash. Huddersfield currently sits 5th in the table while Forest sits 8th, but the Nottinghamshire side will hope that the two Premier League scalps will give them the momentum they need to power through to the next round.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.