Manchester United have called teenage right-back Ethan Laird into the first-team squad for training ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League clash with FK Partizan, raising the possibility of the 18-year-old being involved in Serbia.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has used the Europa League as an opportunity to blood young players, with Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Brandon Williams all starting games in the competition so far this season.
Laird was seen with the first-team at training on Wednesday morning and United have confirmed that he was called up and could be in line for place in the travelling party.
Even just joining the senior group for the trip to Belgrade could be an important experience.
Born in 2001, Laird signed his first professional contract with United last October and has been promoted from the Under-18 ranks to the club’s Under-23 team this season, making the step up to the higher age group alongside the aforementioned Williams.
Rather like Williams, the youngster is local to Manchester, while he is described in his official club profile as having ‘plenty of pace’, as well as possessing ‘defensive qualities’.
Meanwhile, Anthony Martial was a welcome sight at training. The Frenchman’s cameo against Liverpool was his first appearance since August after recovering from injury.
There was, however, no David de Gea, who rushed back from a groin injury in order to play against Liverpool. Instead, young Czech stopper Matej Kovar joined Sergio Romero and Lee Grant as the goalkeepers were put through their paces.
From that, it would appear that De Gea, who sat out the Europa League opener against Astana but did play against AZ Alkmaar last time out, might be rested.
United’s only previous meetings with Partizan were way back in 1965/66 in the semi-finals of that season’s European Cup. Partizan won the two-legged tie 2-1 on aggregate to reach the final, losing to Real Madrid. United eventually won their first European Cup two years later.