Manchester United have picked two young academy full-backs in tonight’s squad ahead of the Partizan Belgrade game.
Brandon Williams, 19, is a good bet to start on the left, while Ethan Laird, 18, is a very intriguing option on the right.
He looked excellent for the under-23s on Monday night, providing one assist, and could have had another if not for some poor finishing.
While they could both be picked against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup next week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be bold and select the duo tonight.
Here are three reasons why…
Discover new stars
Laird and Williams are outstanding young players who have both represented England at youth level.
One of the advantages of being in the Europa League is that it gives United a chance to play young talent.
Brandon Williams started against AZ Alkmaar and kept a clean sheet, while Mason Greenwood scored the winning goal against Astana.
If both Williams and Laird shine as they are capable of, United’s options in the Premier League increase.
Injuries to Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot have shown more strength in depth is needed, and Ashley Young can be phased out, if this young duo can seize their chances.
In the even they play and it does not go well, it is still a tremendous experience for them both, which should benefit them in the future.
Rest first team talent
United need to balance the squad bearing in mind the away trip to Norwich on Sunday. Two away games at Chelsea and Bournemouth follow.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka cannot pay all four, and United should look to rest him this evening.
On the left, Ashley Young is far from an ideal solution in Luke Shaw’s continued absence.
Expecting him to play all four away games at a decent standard is a big ask, especially at the age of 34.
United can help themselves in the short term by ensuring Wan-Bissaka and Young are fresh for Sunday.
United’s shift to a playing three at the back will suit both Williams and Laird, enabling them to play as wing-backs.
Both players are excellent going forward, and the formation will enable them to shine.
There is a strong case that Williams is a better attacker than Young, and Laird superior in that department to Wan-Bissaka.
United’s attack has been the weak link this season and having two fearless attacking wing-backs could finally provide the spark we need.
If Greenwood starts up front, then Laird and Williams’ existing connection with the young striker could also pay off.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has long talked up the philosophy to focus on youth. Tonight is a great chance to make a statement.
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