Mauricio Pochettino can repeat Tottenham trick to solve Manchester United midfield problem – George Smith


As Manchester United started to come to terms with their damaging FA Cup fourth round defeat to Middlesbrough, less than 48 hours later, one of their own – James Garner – showed them how it should be done.

The central-midfielder, who is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest, produced a midfield masterclass to help the Championship side claim their second FA Cup giant killing in as many rounds, playing a key role in helping Steve Cooper’s side dismantle reigning holders Leicester City, winning 4-1 at the City Ground.

Although he did not grab himself a goal on another famous afternoon on the banks of the Trent, he did provide the assist for Joe Worrall to net Forest’s third of the afternoon and put the tie to bed.

Garner’s assist, which came via a corner, was his second in as many matches, meaning he is continuing to go from strength-to-strength at the Championship play-off hopefuls.

But whilst Forest’s supporters, understandably, continue to gush over his talents and no doubt dream about the prospect of keeping hold of him beyond the end of the season, United’s supporters are beginning to think about just how big a talent he could become in United red if he continues on the trajectory he currently finds himself on.

As reported by the Manchester Evening News, those close to Garner believe he could force his way into the first-team fold at Old Trafford next term, where the midfield is expected to have a very different look to it. The club is expected to pursue the signature of at least one new midfielder and Paul Pogba is expected to head for the exit, increasing the Forest loanee’s prospects of making the grade and becoming a regular fixture for the club he joined at Under-8s level.

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The midfielder’s first-team prospects, however, will rest on the thinking of United’s next permanent manager, with the club hoping to soon put plans in place for who will pick up the baton from Ralf Rangnick.

If the Reds successfully poach Mauricio Pochettino, who is one of the frontrunners for the job, from French giants Paris Saint-Germain, Garner could find himself grinding from ear to ear all the way back from Nottingham to Manchester, purely because of the Argentine’s reputation for developing homegrown talent and how important he believes it is to do so.

Speaking back in April 2016, whilst in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, Pochettino said: “I believe in all the players. I don’t look at their passport but it’s important if you are in England, Spain, Italy or France to keep respect, and try to show the identity of the club.

“In the end, we’re an English club and for me it’s important to provide a good balance between the players but to keep the culture. We live in England. English culture is important. We have to improve the English culture. You can ‘t be at an English club using Argentinian or French culture.”

The following year, Pochettino once again highlighted the importance of promoting from within, referencing Sir Alex Ferguson’s success with that particular method.

“There is big pressure to win when you are a big club,” Pochettino said, speaking in 2017. “But for me the best example in football in many years was Manchester United with Sir Alex Ferguson – and what he created with young talent from the academy or from England.

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Sir Alex Ferguson (left) provided inspiration for Mauricio Pochettino.
Sir Alex Ferguson (left) provided inspiration for Mauricio Pochettino.

“It created the core of a team that won everything. That is a good example for me.”

The likelihood of Pochettino, or indeed anyone else for that matter, replicating the success Ferguson enjoyed at United is slim. However, he demonstrated during his time at Spurs that homegrown, English talent does dictate his thinking about him.

The likes of Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane were central to what he achieved in north London, whilst youngsters such as Kyle Walker-Peters and Cameron Carter-Vickers also experienced life in the first-team from time to time.

Pochettino could quite easily repeat that strategy with the English players currently flooding United’s talent pool.

In direct relation to Garner, United’s need for improving their midfield and Pochettino’s track record of utilizing homegrown talent could be a match made in heaven.

Although there is a growing clamor from United’s supporters to see Garner given the chance at Premier League level next season, it is important to not to expect too much too soon from a 20-year-old whose experience of the English top flight amounts currently to just nine minutes.

However, every player, just like United hero David Beckham and current star Jesse Lingard did, has to start somewhere. They both went out on loan as they were looking to make the grade and it did them no harm at all. Why should it be any different for Garner?

Pochettino’s management style, track record and love for English talent could present Garner with the sliding doors moment that he has no doubt be dreaming about for years.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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