Manchester United will field the teenage trio of Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt against Astana in the Europa League on Thursday night. They, along with the 36-year-old goalkeeper Lee Grant, will make their debuts in Kazakhstan while the 19-year-old defender Max Taylor is in the senior squad for the first time since overcoming cancer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær called Taylor, who received chemotherapy this year after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, an “inspiration” to the team.
“It’s a fantastic story, to see him coming back,” Solskjaer said. “I met Max very early after I got the job and to have seen his journey back to full fitness and the way he’s conducted himself … and it’s something that he’ll always have with him.
“He’s been through something that no one should have to go through, but he’s come through the other end. He’s an inspiration for all the players. You can see now when he goes out on to the pitch, there’s no fear anymore.”
Astana is the furthest the club have ever travelled for a European tie. The 6,000-mile round trip has been compounded by temperatures that are dipping below -12 degrees Celsius in Nur-Sultan. It will be warmer inside the roofed Astana Arena, but with qualification to the round of 32 already assured, Solskjaer is using the match as a useful opportunity to give game-time to selected players.