2019/20 was a milestone season for young Manchester talent Ethan Laird. Perhaps next season will be even bigger.
Laird made his United debut in the Europa League, starting away at Astana, and coming off the bench at Old Trafford against AZ Alkmaar. Against Astana he was one of our best players.
Yet right now he is down the queue at right-back, with Diogo Dalot fit again to back up Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah seemingly overtaking him too.
Laird sent a reminder to fans at the weekend of just how talented he is, posting a compilation of his best bits from this past season, with a simple message, ‘I’m coming’.
Laird is every bit as gifted as Brandon Williams, perhaps even more so. The attacking side of his game is already superior to Aaron Wan-Bissaka. There is just a natural flow to his performances.
He has three assists and one goal in 13 academy games this season, a campaign which was disrupted by injury, one sustained back in August and another at the start of the year.
This has meant unlucky Laird has not played a game since January 10, so it is up to him and the academy staff to work closely to ensure he is in peak condition when called upon.
Teammates Teden Mengi and James Garner have been called up to first team training, and an injury at right-back could see Laird get the call.
Laird should be in no rush, although any impatience would be understandable, as he sees young teammates get the call, added to the fact he has already had a brief taste of first team action.
United need to decide what to do next with Laird, whether to send him out on loan in 2020/21. There are likely to be several offers, and the club will have to choose wisely.
Alternatively, United may loan out Fosu-Mensah and decide to keep Laird as a third option. Injuries could quickly see him rise up the queue. His versatility to play at left-back too can also help.
Dalot’s development is one to watch, as if he does not kick on, he is replaceable, and United could get a decent fee for him next summer.
By that point Laird may be ready to really step up. He doesn’t want to be forgotten about, and his determination is good to see. As he says, he’s coming. If he lives up to his potential, United won’t be able to hold him back for long.
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