Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Laird, Bernard and Levitt – The lowdown on teenage Man Utd trio set for first-team debuts

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 27 Nov 2019

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Eyebrows were raised when media reports began circulating on Tuesday claiming Manchester United were taking no fewer than 14 teenagers to Kazakhstan for their penultimate Europa League group game against Astana.

United have already secured a place in the next phase of the competition, so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was always likely to include a few extra youngsters in the travelling party.

Nevertheless, an 18-man selection that includes only four senior players is not what most would have expected, though it does provide a little extra intrigue ahead of a game that is by no means vital.

Solskjaer confirmed in his pre-match news conference on Wednesday that Ethan Laird, Dylan Levitt and Di’Shon Bernard will all start the match.

Below, we have the lowdown on the teenage trio.

Ethan Laird, 18 – right-back

If Laird sounds familiar, that may be because Solskjaer namechecked him as early as last season, regarding him as among the club’s most talented youngsters. The right-back, who is 18, has been unfortunate with injuries, but he travelled with the squad to Belgrade last month.

An athletic and technically proficient attack-minded full-back, Laird is likely to get further chances to impress this season if he continues to develop as expected, having become a key player for the Under-23s.

Dylan Levitt, 19 – central midfielder

While comparisons with Paul Scholes may be a little unfair on Levitt, it is easy to see how they started. A ball-playing midfielder, Levitt has an eye-catching style in possession and a knack of unlocking defences with disguised throughballs.

Passing is the 19-year-old’s strong point and, given United’s lack of depth in midfield, it is somewhat surprising Levitt is still waiting for his debut. Capped at youth level by Wales, he has even been called up to Ryan Giggs’ senior squad, though a first cap has eluded him so far.

Di’Shon Bernard, 19 – centre-back

Axel Tuanzebe looks set to start at centre-back and alongside him will be Di’Shon Bernard. The 19-year-old joined from Chelsea in 2017 after a positive trial period and has progressed steadily.

He began to feature for the Under-23s in 2018-19 and is now a regular. United tied the Londoner down until 2022 earlier this year.

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