Ethan Laird is Manchester United's biggest wildcard for pre-season
Last season an injury cost Ethan Laird the chance to play a part in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pre-season plans. It was a big shame, denying him the chance to show what he might be able to offer.
With midfielder Ethan Galbraith having to fill in for 45 minutes at right-back against Derby, in Laird’s position, there was an opportunity missed for Laird to stake a claim.
That has been the story of Laird’s United career to date, disrupted by injuries even before making his first team debut at 18 in the Europa League in 2019.
He has two first team appearances in total, none since 2019, but he has been picking up very valuable experience out on loan.
United’s biggest wildcard for pre-season
During the past 18 months Laird has been on three loan spells, at MK Dons, Swansea City, and Bournemouth.
The first two were big successes, and mid-season, United took the gamble to move him on from mid-table Swansea and send him to automatic promotion chasers Bournemouth.
Laird did not get as much game time as he would have liked for the Cherries, but can still boast of a promotion on his CV, and ultimately, it was positive for United to push and test him, rather than leave him in a comfort zone at Swansea.
The injury problems seem to tail off this season. Laird stood up well to the rigours of competitive football, and looks to have a big future in the game.
This pre-season could be pivotal for the 20-year-old, who will be looking to convince Manchester United’s new manager Erik ten Hag, that he has something to offer.
Right-back is a weak position for Manchester United, with Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka failing to impress last season, with zero assists combined.
Laird is a total wildcard, who has a high potential ceiling to break into the first team, thanks to his attacking prowess at the position. By the same token, Ten Hag could take one look at him, deem him not ready, and send him out on loan again.
One positive for Laird is that Diogo Dalot will be back a week or so late to pre-season, due to his international involvement, which may give extra room for the United youngster to shine.
He played 26 games on loan last season and is a better player for the experience, even the more challenging moments.
Laird could save United millions at the right-back position, if Erik ten Hag likes him. At this early stage he’s an interesting option for the new manager to take a look at, and is certainly United’s biggest wildcard for pre-season.
Ten Hag has a remarkable record of developing young talent, and with the United team for next season an open book, Laird could be returning from his loan at the perfect time, to try and re-launch his Red Devils career.