Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof both suffered knocks in Manchester United’s brilliant 2-1 win at Chelsea. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes that both will be fit for Saturday’s Premier League clash against AFC Bournemouth. But if not, which youngsters can step up from the under-23s to take a spot in the first team?
Relying on United’s kids has been a common theme this year. Brandon Williams is starting to establish himself at left-back in the injury-enforced absence of Luke Shaw.
With Maguire and Lindelof potentially out, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo would be the centre-back pairing to step in. However, Solskjaer will need some options on his bench.
Blessed with a physique that has him playing above his years, Mengi has developed into a fine defender this year. The 17-year-old is leading the defensive line for United’s under-23 side and looks completely at home despite being so young.
Mengi relied on his physique and pace a little too much as an under-18s player. Since taking the step up to a higher level, his reading of the game and positioning have greatly improved. He’s one of the best talents in the side at the moment and a key member of an in-form side.
Games against Doncaster Rovers and other League One sides in the EFL Trophy have given him a taste of proper senior football and though he’s not ready for United’s first team yet, he could be called up to be on the bench.
Unlike Mengi, Ethan Laird is absolutely ready for a first-team chance at United. Even more confident and direct than Brandon Williams, Laird is a serious prospect at right-back. Injuries have hampered his chances and development slightly.
However, with the potential absence of Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, Bailly and Tuanzebe, a chance could present itself. Solskjaer may be tempted to shift Aaron Wan-Bissaka into central defence after playing with a three-man backline in recent games. Laird could then play at right-wing-back and offer some dynamism going forward.
It’s an unlikely scenario, but Solskjaer is keen to give Laird a chance and he may be brought in to the travelling squad for Saturday’s game.
Who else could help United’s injury crisis?
If Maguire and Lindelof are both ruled out, Solskjaer is most likely to look to Laird. He’s certainly more ready than many of his under-23s teammates. However, it’s likely one of Maguire or Lindelof will be fit.
Laird could still get a chance on the bench. Other options for United are Italian defender Luca Ercolani, who has done well recently, and Dishon Bernard, another under-23s centre-back.
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