Young centre-back Luca Ercolani played his first game of football in 12 months this week.
Ercolani featured for United’s under-23 side this week in a friendly match against Salford City.
It came almost a year after the centre-back’s last appearance for the under-23s against Reading last August.
Ercolani then suffered a torn ACL which required an operation and he has been battling to recover ever since.
Can he spring a surprise?
During his absence, Ercolani was replaced in the under-23s and overtaken by 18-year-old Teden Mengi, who made his first team debut earlier this month against LASK.
This leaves Ercolani, 20, playing catch-up, and at present he is not in the first team conversation.
It is possible one of Ercolani or Di’Shon Bernard go out on loan to get regular competitive football in an attempt to stand out.
It would be a surprise if Ercolani did elevate himself to first team status, but a pleasant one.
The injury has provided Ercolani time to work in the gym and he has returned physically stronger.
A lot can happen over the course of the season and there will be chances for him to prove his quality if he stays, either with the under-23s, or even in the first team amid a rotated squad for cup games, or even injuries.
The 2019/20 season was an unlucky one for Ercolani. Perhaps this year is the one everything starts to turn in his favour.
Ercolani’s comeback shows what is possible when a player is determined and has good coaching and medical staff around him.
His under-23s teammate D’Mani Mellor will view him as an inspiration, having just suffered a torn ACL himself.
The injury is a cruel blow for any player, let alone a young one trying to establish a career. At least at United they are in good hands.
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