Europa League: Solskjaer to hand Man Utd debuts to three academy players against Astana

Manchester United academy trio Ethan Laird, Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt will make their first-team debuts against Astana.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.   -  Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed he will hand first senior starts to academy trio Ethan Laird, Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt in Manchester United's Europa League clash with Astana on Thursday.

United has travelled to Kazakhstan knowing it is already assured of a place in the knockout phase of the competition, having taken 10 points from its four matches.

With the Red Devils still nine points adrift of the top four in the Premier League, Solskjaer has taken the opportunity to rest key players and thus taken an extremely young squad to Nur-Sultan.

While United has not confirmed the full squad, it has been reported 14 of the 18 are teenagers.

James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood have all been photographed and are expected to feature, but Solskjaer confirmed defenders Laird and Bernard along with midfielder Levitt shall all be in the starting XI, while third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant will be between the posts.

"For me this is a game for Man United that we're looking forward to," Solskjaer told reporters on Wednesday.

"You're going to see debuts from some of the younger players. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to see them, to see them perform.

"As I said, with Lee [Grant], the most professional athlete you could see. To have Sergio [Romero] and David [De Gea] ahead of him and knowing he has two of the best goalkeepers in the world to challenge him, to give him his first start is fantastic.

"So, for me, I'm looking for to it and it's a chance to see them together.

"It will obviously be Lee's first start. You're going to see Ethan Laird, you're going to see Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt from the start.

"The subs that come on, that will be their debuts. You'll get definitely a few [debutants].

"It [the decision to take much-changed squad] is common sense. We've done great to qualify after four games, so it gives us an opportunity to give game time to the experienced lads who need it.

"Axel [Tuanzebe], Luke [Shaw], Jesse [Lingard], they've not had too many games since coming back from injuries.

"It's a great chance for me to give Lee his first start for the club, and it's hard with the young kids to give them enough games against men in professional games.

"We've got the EFL Trophy and for me this is a great chance to see them all together."

Another player United have revealed to be in the travelling party is centre-back Max Taylor, who is set for his maiden first-team involvement after undergoing cancer treatment.

Solskjaer sees the 19-year-old as an inspiration and is thrilled to give him such an opportunity.

"It's a fantastic story to see him come back," Solskjaer said. "I met Max very early after I got the job and to have seen his journey to full fitness… The way he has conducted himself, it's something he'll always have with him.

"He's been through something that no one should go through, but he's come through the other end and he's an inspiration for all the other players.

"You can see now, when he goes out onto the pitch, there is no fear in him. He's allowed to have had fear in his life, [but] when you're out on the pitch, you should enjoy yourself and I hope we can see him progress in his career. It's a chance for us to give him some extra motivation."

  Dugout videos