Ethan Laird is a name that most Manchester United fans are familiar with, as the exciting young defender has been on the cusp of breaking into the first team squad for what feels like a couple of seasons.
The right-back seemingly has all the attributes of a top modern defender; pace, defensive ability and attacking quality, however, it has not been plain sailing for the 20-year-old, as injuries blocked his path to the first team. But has the youngster shown enough out on loan to get United fans excited?
Last season, Laird was loaned out for the first time to MK Dons in League One, this loan seemed perfect as Laird was guaranteed minutes and could also learn a lot about the game in a tough League.
Across all competitions, Laird made 25 appearances, contributing four assists for his new club. He had the trust of his manager as, for the 25 games he was available for in the league, Laird started 23.
He was only sent on loan in the January, as reported by the club, so the fact that Laird slotted straight into the team halfway through the season and was instantly trusted shows the quality he brought to his new club.
After this successful spell, there were some wondering if Laird would be in the first team squad for the upcoming 2021/22 season with the future of Diogo Dalot under consideration after his loan at AC Milan.
However, United chose to keep hold of Dalot for the 2021/22 season, meaning Laird would need to prove himself out on loan yet again, this time in the Championship.
United sent Laird out on loan to Swansea City, as announced by the club in August of 2021. The choice of club seemingly being due to the fact that Russell Martin had been newly appointed as Swansea’s boss, who was the manager at MK Dons the season previous, as reported by Manchester United. This was a huge positive for Laird as he knew that he would be trusted by the manager at his new club.
Once again it seems Laird has settled in quickly to life in the Championship, it should be mentioned that being a young defender in the Championship is notoriously difficult due to the battles that occur all over the pitch. Laird has made 16 appearances across all competitions for the Swans, contributing four assists during that time, only a quarter into the season.
It was recently reported by the BBC that Laird views his stint at Swansea as a stepping stone on his way to a first team spot at United, he also went on to say that; ‘I know they (Manchester United’s first team coaching staff) are watching me, which is nice’. This shows the ambition within the youngster to strive and work hard for his place in Manchester United’s first team, he is doing everything right at the moment.
There is certainly a way into United’s first team for the young right-back as currently the performances of Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been criticised, along with the rest of United’s defence. It also appears back up right back Diogo Dalot has fallen completely out of favour, with the Portuguese defender only accumulating 321 minutes in all competitions for United this season.
If Laird carries on in this vein of form, there is every chance that he could be in and around the first team come next season, as United’s defence look to be missing a young, hungry, and talented defender as this current moment.
Written by Jennifer McCord