Ex-Man Utd star gives honest Ten Hag assessment after private talks forced exit

Mikel Arteta reviews the Manchester United game

Former Manchester United midfielder James Garner has opened up on what Erik ten Hag is like as a manager and his frank conversation with the Dutchman that led him to leave Old Trafford. Garner made the tough decision to part ways with his boyhood club last summer for Everton after spending the previous two seasons on loan at Watford and Nottingham Forest.

Despite impressing in both spells and playing a major role in helping Nottingham Forest gain promotion to the Premier League Garner would end up securing a move to Everton after Ten Hag revealed he wouldn’t factor into his plans.

“Ten Hag is a very approachable guy but is very strict,” Garner told the BBC. “He takes no-one bending the rules. He will say it how it is and will punish people if they have done the wrong things.

“My talk with him was easy. I asked him plain and simple whether I was going to be in the squad or if he saw me playing a part. I felt the conversation did not go as well as I wanted and I made the decision to move.”

On deadline day last summer, Garner joined the Toffees for £9million on a four-year deal. The decision received a considerable amount of backlash from Red Devils fans, who felt the youngster had something to give to the first team.

Last season, Garner featured 16 times for Everton in the Premier League but his campaign was derailed by a troublesome back injury that kept him out for 14 games. Towards the back end of the 2022/2023 campaign, he was deployed as a makeshift right-back due to Seamus Coleman and Nathan Patterson being sidelined by injuries of their own and never truly got a chance to make a meaningful impact for his new side.

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This year he is expected to play a much bigger role for the Merseyside club having started all four of Everton’s Premier League games as a right midfielder. The Toffees narrowly escaped the drop last season and look set for another relegation battle this year after only managing to pick up one point from a possible 12. But Garner insists there are plenty of positives to be taken away from their poor start.

“Last season it was tough,” he said. “We managed to stay in the Premier League, which was the goal. This season, it has not shown in terms of points that we have had a good start, but in our performances against three teams – with the blip against Aston Villa – we created a hell of a lot of chances.

“It is just about putting them away. We have to remain positive, don’t get too down and stay patient, it will come. Our squad is definitely strong enough to be middle to top half of the table, that is what I believe. With the lads coming back from injuries and our signings, it only adds to the strong squad we already have. It is about working together as a whole team with the staff and getting the three points which matters the most.”

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