Right-back has been a problem area throughout the season and the issue could come to a head this summer given the uncertainty surrounding Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s future
Manchester United may already have an ideal long-term solution in defence if past comments made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are anything to go by.
Right-back has proved to be a particular problem area for the Red Devils this season with Ralf Rangnick chopping and changing between Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka since replacing Solskjaer in November. The latter player’s future is especially unclear as incoming manager Erik ten Hag has reportedly put him and four other players up for sale ahead of his arrival this summer.
The Dutchman is expected to receive substantial financial backing in the transfer window in order to sign a striker and two ready-made midfielders. The war chest could struggle to stretch to a new option at right-back but this may not be an issue due to an emerging talent already on United’s books.
The prospect in question is Ethan Laird, who made his senior debut under Solskjaer in the Europa League during the 2019/20 season. The 20-year-old made one more appearance under the Norwegian and has since spent time on loan with Milton Keynes Dons, Swansea City and Bournemouth, helping the Cherries achieve promotion to the Premier League during his ongoing short spell on the south coast.
After handing the youngster his maiden first-team appearance, Solskjaer was keen to emphasise Laird is everything United are looking for on either side of defence. “He’s a full-back in the mould that we want,” the Old Trafford legend said of Laird. “He’s physical, he’s quick, he’s strong, technical as well, driving forward with it. So we thought it was the time for him now to get this experience and we believe he can kick on in his career.”
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It remains to be seen whether Ten Hag will share Solskjaer’s optimism about Laird or look to offload him either on loan or permanently this summer. The player has just over one year remaining on his contract but drew praise from Bournemouth manager Scott Parker after making his Cherries debut in February, following a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
“Yeah he did,” Parker told reporters, per DorsetLive, when asked if Laird impressed after his 17-minute cameo in a victory over Stoke City. “I was pleased for Ethan after he came on because he’s obviously not had a lot of football since he’s been here, so I was pleased for him.” Laird has made a total of six appearances for Bournemouth having spent the first half of the season with Swansea, where he played 21 games and picked up four assists primarily from a right-midfield role.