Arnau Puigmal, United's young Spanish midfielder.

Who are the youngsters in United's squad?

Manchester United’s young players will be handed an opportunity to shine in the Europa League in Thursday’s Group L clash with Astana.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed there will be debuts for Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Laird and Dylan Levitt. It looks certain Matej Kovar, Teden Mengi, Max Taylor, Ethan Galbraith, Arnau Puigmal, Largie Ramazani and D’Mani Mellor are going to be named as substitutes.

Nicky Butt, our head of first-team development, is also in Kazakhstan to help the boys to deal with the pressure of the high-profile game and he told us: “I think it’s a proud occasion for the whole of the club. Obviously, it’s an opportunity for the manger and the staff to look at the younger players first hand.

“We know they see them in training and in some of the games but this is a bigger environment. It’s a European game for the club and it’s massive. We’re fortunate the team and squad has done its part beforehand to allow this to happen tonight.”

Video
Nicky Butt at the Astana Arena.
Watch Nicky Butt discuss the Reds' youngsters in Kazakhstan.

We take a quick look at the youngsters in question ahead of a big night for everybody involved with the club’s Academy.

MATEJ KOVAR

The giant Czech Republic youth keeper has made some fine saves this season, including two important penalty stops in Premier League 2 games. He was a key figure in the Leasing.com Trophy group stages, particularly when the Reds came under pressure against League One opponents. The 19-year-old, who is comfortable with the ball at his feet, recently signed a new contract and has been gaining valuable experience training and sometimes travelling with the first team.

DI’SHON BERNARD

After playing for the same Sunday League club as Aaron Wan-Bissaka in London, he was with Chelsea between the Under-10s and Under-16s. The centre-back had to work hard to make his mark in Manchester but he has grown in stature and become a regular in the Under-23s side. A powerful performer who also has speed, his patience has certainly been rewarded. At 19, he is poised for his senior bow at the Astana Arena, alongside Axel Tuanzebe, a colleague he looks up to and hopes to emulate.

ETHAN LAIRD

A dynamic modern full-back who relishes thundering down the right flank on the overlap and joining with the attack. An enthusiastic character, he scored our very first goal in the EFL Trophy (known as the Leasing.com Trophy) with a terrific strike at Rotherham United in August. As one of the youngest in his age group, the 18-year-old has had to fight hard to rise through the ranks but has enjoyed great progress. He travelled with the squad to Partizan Belgrade and recently scored for England’s Under-19s.

TEDEN MENGI

One of two players still eligible for the Under-18s, the other is Mason Greenwood, the defensive strong-man has been showing his qualities in Premier League 2. Although only 17, he exudes authority among his peers and represents England in his age group. He is obviously still learning the game but his pace and strength are key assets that enable him to deal with more experienced attackers. A Mancunian who seems likely to be an important player in the FA Youth Cup, which gets under way soon.

MAX TAYLOR

It is difficult to do justice to the journey the 19-year-old has been on since being diagnosed with testicular cancer. The central defender’s resilience and strength of character has allowed him to return to action and he has been eased back into action with the Under-23s, getting a run-out at Old Trafford for the first time last week. An inspirational person who loves the art of defending and making last-man challenges, he is also composed on the ball.

Matej Kovar works on the synthetic pitch with coach Alan Fettis.

DYLAN LEVITT

A silky midfielder with astute passing ability and a knack for making things happen between the lines with his vision. Already a member of Ryan Giggs’s senior Wales squad, although he is still awaiting his first cap, the 19-year-old was rewarded with a new deal earlier this month in recognition of his adaptation to the Under-23s, a team he has captained. He was at the same development centre as James Garner and came through the MANUSS programme. The young schemer is also the coolest of penalty takers.

ETHAN GALBRAITH

There was plenty of interest in the midfield man when he started making waves in his native Northern Ireland but he opted to join United in 2017 after being recommended by scout Tony Coulter. After taking time to settle in his new surroundings, he has shown his ability and conjured up some magical goals, including a stunning volley at Doncaster Rovers in our last Leasing.com Trophy outing. The 18-year-old made his senior international debut in September, against Luxembourg at Windsor Park and is enjoying a season to remember.

ARNAU PUIGMAL

An 18-year-old from Spain who impressed playing against United with Espanyol in the MIC Cup in his homeland. The classy midfielder jumped at the chance to move to Manchester and scored a beautiful free-kick on his Under-18s debut, against Newcastle United at The Cliff. He has been learning the defensive side of the game by operating at right-back but is now often selected in the middle of the park, where he also plays for his country at youth level. Technically very sound, he has learned the language and has handled the step up when training with the first team.

Angel Gomes and Largie Ramazani.
Largie Ramazani looks to take off in a sprint with Angel Gomes.

LARGIE RAMAZANI

The lively forward has made outstanding progress this term and is the leading scorer in Neil Wood’s attacking Under-23 side; his goals at that level include a double against Sunderland at Old Trafford last time out, in front of Solskjaer. An arrival from Charlton Athletic, he represents Belgium’s youth side and is a real box of tricks, capable of dribbling past defenders and shooting with accuracy. A maiden goal in Premier League 2 actually came against Sunderland last season, but he has taken his game to another level in 2019/20. It is testament to the 18-year-old’s development over a short space of time that he has earned this call-up.

D’MANI MELLOR

The most hard working of forwards, the local lad runs the channels, harries the opposition and defends from the front. The 19-year-old was flying at the end of last season, hitting top form for Neil Ryan’s Under-18s, and is fit again to help pep up the attack at Premier League 2 level after making the step up. He has been working on his finishing with coach Colin Little and guarantees 100 per cent effort in every performance. He can play down the middle or in a wide forward role.

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