Manchester United continue to struggle under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but they have at least kept up a tradition of bringing through young players into the first team.
One of the latest to emerge is Max Taylor, who features among a host of youngsters called up to the squad for Thursday’s Europa League match against Astana.
With qualification to the last 32 already assured, Solskjaer is expected to make changes to the team that drew 3-3 with Sheffield United last Sunday, meaning Taylor could make his first-team debut a little over a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
It would be quite some milestone for the 19-year-old, who has had a difficult year but would appear to have a promising career ahead.
There was some concern for the Reds after Teden Mengi left the field injured. It was a special moment for substitute @MaxTaylor00 , however, as he made his long-awaited return after treatment for cancer. pic.twitter.com/WPtn19h3lr
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 21, 2019
Taylor was born Max Dunne in Manchester on January 10, 2000 – the day Solskjaer was playing in a 2-0 win over South Melbourne in the Club World Cup.
After initially joining United following a trial in 2014, he was one of eight youngsters in the intake of 2016, of which he was one of two locals, alongside Salford-born Aidan Barlow.
Taylor, who adopted that surname in February this year, made his reserve-team debut ahead of schedule as a substitute against Manchester City in 2016-17 but spent most of his time with United’s under-18 side.
He made 12 starts that season and then 17 appearances in all competitions in the next, winning the Under-18 Premier League North trophy.
Described by then-academy coach Kieran McKenna as a “tough, aggressive defender who is good in the air”, Taylor signed his first professional United contract in January 2018, along with team-mate George Tanner.
— Max Taylor (@maxtaylor00) November 15, 2019
ILLNESS AND UNDER-23S RETURN
Taylor was moved into the under-23s side, then coached by Ricky Sbragia, ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Having prepared himself for the tougher physical and tactical aspects of regular football in the higher age group, the centre-back was then presented with a far greater challenge.
After complaining of pain while sprinting and generally feeling unwell, Taylor was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which tests last October showed had spread to his lymph nodes.
Surgery was required to remove dead tissue after chemotherapy cleared the cancer cells – “quite a risky operation” as Taylor described it. Thankfully, he was given the all-clear in February.
He returned to training on September 18, telling United’s website: “I feel immensely proud and happy to be back on the training pitch with my team-mates and friends. Without the invaluable support of my family, team-mates and, of course, the nurses and doctors, my return to training at this stage would not have been possible.”
Just under five weeks later, Taylor was back in action for the under-23s, coming on as a substitute for Teden Mengi in a 4-1 win over Swansea City. He then got his first taste of playing at Old Trafford in a 3-0 win for the youngsters over Sunderland last Friday, with Solskjaer watching from the stands.
Speaking to MUTV this week, Taylor said of his illness: “I don’t want it to define me. I’d rather it be a part of me and then whether it’s my football or how I am as a person, all combines to define me. I don’t want it to be a case of it’s the cancer that defines me.
“Next is I’m planning to get regular football, whether it be in the under-23s or on loan or whatever. My ultimate goal is to play for the first team here.”
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