Ethan Laird may have shown enough to convince Manchester United to cancel transfer plans
But with Aaron Wan-Bissaka curiously absent from both friendly matches over the weekend, Laird travelled for the Atletico game as back-up right-back, and then started the match against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford.
In an entertaining 1-1 draw against the La Liga side, Laird may have shown enough to convince United to cancel the plans to send him on loan.
The option to send him to Watford is not an especially attractive one. The club’s tendency to sack managers at a rapid rate means this is not a loan with a high chance of stability, as James Garner previously discovered to his cost.
Laird may have shown enough
Ethan Laird had a bright, albeit imperfect 90 minutes in his first start of the pre-season, showing he could be a very useful player.
Let’s get the bad news out the way early. Laird was asleep for Rayo’s goal. He stood still inside his own box and lost his opponents. It wasn’t good enough and Erik ten Hag won’t have been happy. This showed he still has plenty to learn.
What was positive, was the way Laird responded. In a similar circumstance a few minutes later he was quick and alert, cutting out a cross to prevent it getting to the Rayo forward.
Laird was impressive going forward, leading one long-busting run on the counter attack down the left late in the second half, showing a hugely impressive burst of speed.
He was always looking to get forward, offering an outlet on the overlap, showing energy and desire. The club’s official website praised his defensive contribution, picking out ‘two excellent blocks’ he made.
Certainly, Laird showed enough to warrant a further look, especially if the club are looking to sell Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The question is whether United do this up close, or from afar.
Loaning Laird would push United to sign another right-back to compete with Diogo Dalot, who was one of the club’s best players on tour.
Laird’s performance suggested he might be able to give Dalot a run for his money, if given an opportunity.
It all depends how Ten Hag views his performance in relation to the goal United conceded. If Ten Hag believes it was unforgivable and Laird needs to gain more experience, then so be it, but if he prefers to look at the positives, there were enough signs there to be optimistic that the youngster can play a part this season.