Manchester United youngster James Garner is the sixth academy graduate to leave the club on loan this summer in search of crucial first-team opportunities that will aid his development in preparation for what the Red Devils hope will be a long-term future at Old Trafford.
Tahith Chong and Dylan Levitt, who have joined Werder Bremen and Charlton respectively on season-long deals, are the two others alongside Garner most likely to command a first-team place at Old Trafford in the coming few years.
Chong actually scored on his Bremen debut in the DFB-Pokal last weekend, while Levitt made his Charlton debut in the Carabao Cup against West Ham this week. For Garner, the opportunity will be there to potentially play a major role in Watford’s promotion hopes following the summer departure of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who hasn’t otherwise been directly replaced.
Garner has been hailed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has as the next Michael Carrick and is highly rated at United, having made his first team debut at 17 in February 2019. Chong, meanwhile, has been around the first team for some time and Levitt is already a full Wales international.
All three should benefit tremendously from a season of more regular games, which will give Solskjaer and the other senior coaching staff the chance to assess them through a first team lens.
Goalkeeper Joel Pereira has been sent out on loan again. At 24, his prospects of a long-term future at Old Trafford are diminishing, but fellow goalkeeper Matej Kovar is only 20 and will play for Swindon this season, while French midfielder Aliou Traore has joined Caen in Ligue 2.
Not every player is a Kylian Mbappe or Jadon Sancho and it is worth noting that Dean Henderson’s first loan away from United was to non-league Stockport County. He then jumped up a division each subsequent season and is now a firm part of the England setup.
United’s youth team is starting to produce again and there is tremendous excitement about a number of other talents. Hannibal Mejbri, plucked from Monaco for a sizeable transfer fee last year, has stepped up to Under-23 level, as has Jimmy Murphy award winner Anthony Elanga.
Teden Mengi, who only turned 18 in April, won’t go out on loan and has instead jumped straight to the first-team squad on what has been described as an ‘indefinite’ basis. Right now, the teenager is arguably fourth or even third choice centre-back as the situation currently stands.
The academy was the lifeblood of the club in the 1950s and 1960s. It was later neglected, before Alex Ferguson saw the potential to develop home-grown players and set about reviving it with spectacular results soon after he arrived in Manchester in the late 1980s.
Once again, United’s youth ranks fell into decline during the 2010s, but the club has made a considerable effort to re-commit and re-invest in the last couple of years.
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