Ethan Laird and Matej Kovar train with United first team ahead of Partizan trip

After a successful return from injury in the under-23s, talented right-back Ethan Laird was called up to first-team training by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Goalkeeper Matej Kovar was also involved in the absence of David de Gea.

There are high hopes for both players at United, where coaches rate Laird very highly. The same is true when the 18-year-old goes on international duty with England at St. George’s Park.

With Diogo Dalot missing United’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool with a knock, Laird may be in with a chance for his first-team debut as Solskjaer’s side travel to Serbia to take on Partizan Belgrade

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Kovar, meanwhile, is likely to be on the bench while Sergio Romero starts in goal. De Gea played for United against Liverpool but after injury with Spain in the international break is set to be rested


Ethan Laird may be given first team chance

Laird would be the second young full-back to debut in the UEFA Europa League this season. Left-back Brandon Williams has already been given the chance due to injury to Luke Shaw. Solskjaer may now be tempted to rest Aaron Wan-Bissaka in order to give Laird a chance.

Regular watchers of United’s academy sides are very aware of Laird’s talent. As an attacking threat, there are few full-backs of his age who are quite such a frightening prospect to come up against. He’s contributed with goals and frequent assists over the last few seasons at various levels.

On his return to the under-23s on Monday night, Laird provided a great assist for United’s third goal. The Reds went on to win 4-1 away at Swansea.

Solskjaer has watched Laird since arriving at United

Laird is certainly in the thoughts of the first-team coaching staff. Solskjaer made that much clear when he namedropped him last season as a prospect, alongside Mason Greenwood and James Garner. That was when Solskjaer was just interim manager at United and yet Laird was already being mentioned for a chance.

His attacking prowess combined well with Mason Greenwood’s finishing in the youth sides.

“Mason’s a great finisher,” Laird once said. “I always think to myself, when I get in and around the box, who can I find? Mason is always in there and I’m glad he put it in.”

United’s open training session on Wednesday saw some notable team news revealed. There was no sign of defenders Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Eric Bailly or Luke Shaw. With Laird able to play in both full-back positions, he may be in line for a start.

“Neil Ryan, Colin Little, Kieran McKenna and Nicky Butt have always been telling me when you get to that stage [in the area], calm everything down as, if you’re in the box, if they touch you, it’s more likely to be a penalty. So calm down, find the pass and, hopefully, it all goes well.”

Ethan Laird

How Laird could fit in with Wan-Bissaka?

After the summer signing of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Laird’s pathway to the first team looks to be a difficult one. But United want him in the first team soon. They’ll find a way.

It may be that Wan-Bissaka starts at right-centre-back in a three-man defence and Laird is used as a wing-back. He’s certainly good enough to have an attacking impact already.

Kovar trains regularly with United first team

It’s not the first time that Matej Kovar has trained with United’s first team. He’s doing well in the under-23s and has benefitted from Joel Pereira, Kieran O’Hara and Dean Henderson all going out on loan.

James Garner was also present and in contention for his first start. He made his first team debut last season as a late substitute against Crystal Palace.

Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.