Manchester United’s 27-man training camp features a big group of young players who are gaining valuable experience.

The likes of James Garner, Dylan Levitt, Ethan Galbraith, Joe Hugill, Shola Shoretire, Di’Shon Bernard and Teden Mengi are among those getting a chance to impress the coaches and also get to know them better off the pitch.

One young player conspicuous by his absence is Ethan Laird, 19. And it is a real blow for him to miss out on this opportunity.

It was a reasonable assumption to make the leap that he was injured amid his unfortunate record with injuries and a report from the MEN states that he is recovering from a ‘heavy knock’ sustained at the end of last season.

Salford v Manchester United U21 - EFL Trophy
(Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

First team opening gone?

Laird impressed on loan at MK Dons in League One last season where he had an injury free run, playing 25 matches, in comparison to just four at under-23 level before January.

There was a chance that a strong pre-season for Laird could have seen him rocket up the United pecking order, especially with the smaller squad an opportunities given in pre-season.

In the second half against Derby at the weekend United had to use midfielder Ethan Galbraith as a makeshift right-back due to a lack of options. Laird will no doubt have been frustrated watching on as his potential chance passed him by.

 

Laird made his first team debut in 2019 in the Europa League, playing two matches. But he has not had another chance since.

A strong pre-season showing from Laird could even have forced United into re-thinking plans at right-back. For this season, missing pre-season may have killed off his immediate chances of a breakthrough. While Diogo Dalot is expected to leave again amid Milan interest with Aaron Wan-Bissaka preferred, United are expected to try and make a push to sign Kieran Trippier.

Trippier, 30, would not necessarily block Laird long-term, and that is part of the attraction of the potential deal, but he would ensure that the youngster’s next couple of seasons at least will probably be spent on loan.

Milton Keynes Dons v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One
(Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

A move to the Championship would be a good test for Laird next season. And possibly a Premier League loan in 22/23, with his situation to be reviewed after that point.

The MEN report does say Laird is likely to be fit before the start of the season. A late loan will be likely before the end of August, but it is of course possible he is kept as a back-up option for the first team until the Trippier deal is done. Playing the first half of the season with the under-23s and second half out on loan is possible if his injury takes longer to heal.

All is not lost for Laird, clearly. But it does feel like this early season misfortune has been a real missed opportunity for him to get onto Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s radar.

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