Manchester United’s mini left-back crisis this week has prompted calls from fans for Ethan Laird to make his Premier League debut.
Laird is one of United’s most exciting academy players and was pictured in first team training last week.
Diogo Dalot is next in line to step in at left-back if both Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams are not passed fit.
There are cases to be made for and against Laird starting. It is true to say he is both ‘ready’ and ‘not ready’ at the same time. Let’s take a look…
Laird has been waiting for an opportunity like this to come his way. When it arrives, you quite simply have to be ready.
The teenager made his Europa League debut back in the group stages last November and managed to impress.
United could play him in his preferred right-back position and switch Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the left, putting him in a better position to succeed.
A report in The Telegraph this week claimed United are open to offers to sell Diogo Dalot.
This indicates confidence in Laird, so why wait? Give him a chance to learn on the job.
A chance in a Premier League game which matters will be far more valuable to Laird and United than a dead rubber against LASK, which will only show his talent, rather than his temperament and ability to play with pressure.
Putting him in around other first team stars will make his task easier, and if he succeeds, United have a player ready to seize more chances, like Brandon Williams did earlier in the season.
He’s not ready
While Laird may have been waiting for this chance, the timing is all wrong.
Laird only stepped up to the first team training group last Wednesday, unlike Tahith Chong, Teden Mengi and James Garner, who have been with the squad since late May and early June.
This match against Palace comes just a little too soon for him, and Laird would have to go up against Wilfried Zaha.
Whichever side Wan-Bissaka plays on, Zaha is likely to target the opposite, and try to exploit Laird as a weakness.
It is a test which could be too stern for him at this early stage of his career in such a high profile game. There is too much riding on it for Laird and Solskjaer to get this wrong.
United’s Champions League qualification could depend on this match, and if it goes wrong, Laird’s career at the club could be severely setback by a mistake. It is unfair to put him in this position at this stage of the season.
Another chance against LASK is likely incoming in a few week’s time. Laird just needs to stay patient, perform well then, and his Premier League bow could come next season instead, in a game with a little less pressure.
Is there a compromise?
The right answer for United may be to bring Laird with the first team and put him on the bench.
To be in a Premier League matchday squad for the first time will be a good experience in itself for the youngster.
Then if United are three goals up in the second half, as is very possible, Solskjaer could bring Laird on for his Premier League bow.
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