Manchester United could use prospect James Garner to sweeten a potential summer deal for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips. United are considering signing a defensive midfielder in Erik ten Hag’s first transfer window and have shown interest in Phillips’ services.
Ten Hag is understood to have identified a centre-back, a defensive midfielder, a central midfielder and a forward as four priority positions. But United’s interest in the England international was complicated by Leeds avoiding relegation on the final day and further stifled by the rise of Manchester City among their suitors.
According to The Athletic, Leeds are privately hopeful that Phillips will sign a new contract and stay at his hometown club for another season. But regardless of whether his near future is far from Elland Road or not, Leeds are keen to bolster their ranks in midfield.
In the second half of last season, the Whites inquired about Garner as he regularly appeared in the headlines in Nottingham Forest’s Premier League promotion drive. And that interest could still be around, with the 21-year-old set for his first campaign in the top flight.
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After dramatically maintaining their Premier League status, Leeds won’t feel compelled to sell Phillips for anything close to the £25m fee they would have had to accept if they couldn’t escape relegation. With United’s budget limited and their West Yorkshire rivals credited with an interest in Garner, they might be tempted to test his resolve.
Garner’s actions soared during his loan at Forest, and he created the opportunity for the winner in Sunday’s Championship Play-Off Final against Huddersfield Town. Ten Hag is expected to appraise the ace before offering him the chance to join his first team or send him out on loan for regular Premier League football.
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Depending on how desperately United want to recruit Phillips, Ten Hag may feel the 26-year-old’s ceiling is higher and could sanction Garner’s involvement in a deal. But that outcome is unlikely given how highly United fans and figures rate him.
Garner made his senior debut for the Red Devils in a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in the 2018-19 season and has made seven appearances, including four in the Europa League. With the club back in the competition next season, he will certainly get a chance for more minutes if he stays at Old Trafford, but a loan elsewhere might better serve his development.
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