• The midfielder had just played a major role in helping Nottingham Forest gain promotion back to the Premier League after 23 years and felt ready to be part of the Red Devils first team, but it did not work out as planned.
• Last season, Garner suffered a back injury, playing only 17 games, and saw Frank Lampard replaced by Sean Dyche as boss. But now the 22-year-old is finally getting a run in the first-team.
James Garner is aiming to crack the code for Everton both on and off the pitch.
Only weeks after the arrival of new manager Erik ten Hag at Manchester United last summer, Garner was forced to make the gut-wrenching decision to leave his boyhood club for pastures new.
The midfielder had just played a major role in helping Nottingham Forest gain promotion back to the Premier League after 23 years and felt ready to be part of the Red Devils first team, but it did not work out as planned.
“When I came back to United, I felt like I had a good enough season to have a shot,” Garner tells BBC Sport. “But unfortunately I got injured on the first day and it set me back two or three weeks, so the manager did not get to see me in training and games."
“It was a decision where - after having two seasons in men’s football - I wanted to be part of a team and squad, ideally starting too. I knew I wasn’t going to get that at United so I made the decision to move here."
“I could have gone on loan again and come back but I felt I would have been in the exact same position I was then. I didn’t want to be stuck in the mud, I needed to make a decision to leave one of the best clubs in the world, which was hard, but it is one I am happy I made,” he said.
There are clear similarities between United and Everton at this moment in time — both teams are underperforming on the pitch and enduring a protractive takeover process.
Both sets of supporters have protested at the running of their clubs, who have chopped and changed managers and squandered millions of pounds in poor signings.
Ten Hag and Sean Dyche have also faced criticism from outspoken players this season - Jadon Sancho said he has been made a “scapegoat” after being dropped, while Demarai Gray appeared to snipe at his boss on social media before being sold to Saudi side Al-Ettifaq.
Garner believes the characteristics of the two managers are alike, saying: “Ten Hag is a very approachable guy but is very strict. 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.”
He adds: “Dyche demands 100 per cent work-rate whether that is in the gym or on the pitch, he doesn’t like anyone taking shortcuts and if you do you will be found out.
“He is a very strict manager too, very stern and straight to the point, which is what some players need at times.”
Garner is attending an event run by Everton’s community team close to the club’s Goodison Park stadium, helping local school children with activities using coding. Challenges include the use of a tablet to score a goal with a robotic ball, and using Lego to build a vehicle that can travel upon instruction.
Last season, Garner suffered a back injury, playing only 17 games, and saw Frank Lampard replaced by Sean Dyche as boss. But now the 22-year-old is finally getting a run in the first-team.
The Toffees escaped relegation on the final day last term and have malfunctioned so far this season, collecting only one point from their opening four games. Sunday’s meeting with Arsenal will be a challenge.
“Last season it was tough,” says Garner. “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.”
Garner returned to pre-season with Everton on a high after winning the Under-21 European Championship with England in Georgia, his last act in a Young Lions shirt.
Players from that starting 11 such as midfielder Cole Palmer and goalkeeper James Trafford earned big-money moves this summer.
The talent in English national senior teams has seen the Lionesses win the Euros and reach the World Cup final, while the men’s side were beaten in the final of Euro 2020.
Asked if the Three Lions will finally win a tournament after success back in 1966, Garner said: “100 per cent they can. They have got the best squad in the world.
“They have come close a few times now and it is just about going that one step further. It is not easy, but tournament football is difficult but we definitely have the squad to do it."
"The generation born in 2000 and 2001 is stacked with talent, as we saw in the U21 Euros. Every player, including the ones on the bench, are starting in the Premier League. It is a massive generation of talent and I hope a lot of them break into the first team.”