Manchester United are braced for a new era with incoming boss Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman certainly has his work cut out though, with a number of areas in urgent need of strengthening as the club once again aim to become challengers at the top of English football.
One player who Ten Hag and United supporters will be keen to see more of next season is James Garner. The academy product caught the eye out on loan at Nottingham Forest in 2021-22. His stellar form played a big part in Forest clinching promotion after years away from the top flight.
Here, Mirror Football looks at five youngsters who could follow in Garner’s footsteps and who would benefit from a loan spell in the Championship next season.
A composed player on the ball, the 19-year-old earned headlines when ex-United player-turned-pundit Gary Neville claimed he was “proud” of the player after his energetic if not over-enthusiastic cameo at Anfield – which came with United trailing 3-0 in a game they would ultimately lose 4-0.
The teenager put in a robust tackle on Naby Keita, earning a booking. Neville said afterwards: “It takes a young kid to come on and show the rest of them how to sprint for the ball and put a challenge in. I’m actually proud of him! Maybe he doesn’t like the idea of Liverpool players passing it round him. I wish the rest of them were the same.”
A loan stint at a Championship club may be the perfect environment in which the Tunisian can flourish next term.
The Spanish defender signed a four-year deal at United in September 2020, arriving from Real Madrid.
He has yet to make his senior debut for United but has hugely impressed for the club’s under-23s. So much so, that he scooped the coveted Reserve-Team Player of the Year award last season. Previous winners of the gong include the likes of James Garner, Adnan Januzaj and Darren Fletcher.
Fernandez, 19, regularly trained with the senior side in the final months of the ill-fated campaign and was part of Ralf Rangnick’s matchday squad for the last four Premier League games of the season. A loan stint in the Championship, maybe for even a half-season, could well be the next logical step in his development.
Goalkeeper Bishop has a peculiar role at Old Trafford. Signed back in 2020, his role at the club is widely regarded as a ‘practice squad’ player.
He has yet to make a senior outing for United and last season he excelled on loan at League Two Mansfield, making more than 50 appearances as the Stags fell short in the play-off final. His deal at his parent club runs until next summer but with his chances of a first team breakthrough slim, another loan surely beckons.
And a temporary deal at a Championship club would make sense and potentially put him in the shop window ahead of his deal at United expiring.
Chong’s future remains unclear given United triggered a contract extension earlier this summer. There was a period when many expected the club to release him but keeping him on board quashed that theory.
The Dutchman impressed on loan at Birmingham last season before suffering a serious injury. It meant he was only able to appear 20 times. Whether a similar arrangement could be agreed next season remains to be seen, but if he is made available then plenty of second tier clubs would no doubt be queuing up to sign Chong.
Blues’ boss Lee Bowyer was a big fan of the midfielder, but says his side may face competition in trying to re-sign him on loan: “If it doesn’t work out for him (at United under Ten Hag) then what I do know is that if he does then go on loan I know he has loved it here. The problem is there might be others that will want to take him that might offer something a bit different to us.”
With a first name like Zidane, the young midfielder is always going to grab people’s attention.
Just 19, Iqbal made his first team debut last season with a brief cameo off the bench in a Champions League tie. A regular for the under-23s, the gifted youngster has been linked with a loan switch to Preston North End for the coming season following a spell at Deepdale last term.
That was part of United’s work experience programme which saw a raft of youngsters enjoy stays at EFL clubs, joining in with training and getting a feel for the first team environment.
It has been suggested a loan move may not happen until next January, but if his progress continues at the same rapid rate then Iqbal will have no shortage of clubs ready to swoop for his temporary signature.