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Highlights on Off The Ball


The Man United youth star who could oust Williams and Wan-Bissaka

Academy talent Ethan Laird could well make the breakthrough into the Manchester United first-team...

Academy talent Ethan Laird could well make the breakthrough into the Manchester United first-team this season, according to football journalist Daniel Harris.

The 19-year-old made his senior debut for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side in a Europa League tie at Astana last November, before appearing in the home win over AZ Alkmaar.

The full-back has worked his way up through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, and signed a new contract at the club in February.

Harris suggested on OTB AM this morning, when picking his Manchester United squad depth chart, that he could be a player ultimately favoured ahead of both Brandon Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

"There's a kid coming through now who is just behind Brandon Williams called Ethan Laird. I think he will be a better full-back than Brandon Williams, and he might be a better full-back than Aaron Wan-Bissaka as well.

"I wouldn't be surprised if at some point Wan-Bissaka moved to centre-back, because Laird is a better attacker than him, and also a really good defender.

"I was talking to Jimmy Murphy junior, the son of Jimmy Murphy who was Matt Busby's assistant, who has been watching United's youth team for 50 years.

"It doesn't mean he has a better eye for a player necessarily than someone else, but he is definitely someone to whom I would listen.

"He was saying that when he followed United's youth team to Liverpool, and bear in mind this was a youth team that had Mason Greenwood in it, the Liverpool coaches were saying Ethan Laird was the best of that crop of young players.

"So I think they have really high hopes for him. I wouldn't be surprised to see him start breaking into the first-team this season. I would be surprised if United signed a deputy right-back to go in in front of him because he is a serious talent."

Harris added that Luke Shaw is currently the clear number one choice at left-back, and isn't convinced Williams will appear much next season.

"I don't think so. There's a lot to like about Brandon Williams, but he's raw. Also I think when Luke Shaw was injured, you saw the difference in having a natural left-footer on the left.

"Before Shaw got injured you were seeing quite a lot of link-up play between him, Martial, and Rashford in particular. That kind of stopped when he got injured because what happens is, when you have the full-back playing on their natural side it allows them to keep the width.

"And it means the forward, the wide attacker, can be more like an inside-forward and attack the box.

"You need a full-back who is going to be able to get down the wing, stay wide, and put crosses in. [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka has improved in that aspect and he looked like he was improving quite significantly until it looked like he was getting tired.

"One of the reasons United are so keen to sign a right-winger is for that reason, because on that side they don't have a full-back who is as comfortable crossing.

"I'm not sure they need to buy someone... Although Brandon Williams is a left-back, he's right-footed, so it's unlikely that he would not be able to adapt for Wan-Bissaka."

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Aaron Wan-Bissaka Brandon Williams Daniel Harris Ethan Laird Man United Mufc Otb Am Solskjaer