Six academy graduates have made their full debuts in the Europa League this season and another three came on for their maiden career appearance in Astana. Even though United are well into the knockout stage they are already home and dry and can afford to blood more youngsters.
Teden Mengi was an unused substitute in Astana, where Dishon Bernard started ahead of him, and the Mancunian has to be in line for his debut against LASK Linz. Centre-back Mengi, 18, has been training with the United first-team for the last two months and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only has three other centre halves available.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are due breathers so there is every chance Mengi, who travelled to Villa Park last month, could start alongside Eric Bailly. Ten academy graduates have already debuted on Solskjaer’s watch and this is the first season at least seven academy talents have made their first-team bow since 1994-95. Even Sir Alex Ferguson never managed eight in a campaign.
Any more youngsters?
Dylan Levitt has been removed from the United Europa League squad but Ethan Galbraith retained. The 19-year-old Northern Ireland international came on in Astana – where Levitt started – and would be a surprise inclusion in the matchday squad.
United were free to add any more ‘B list’ players (born on, or after, January 1 1998 and have been eligible to play for the club for two years since his 15th birthday) but that was never likely after the alterations they made on Tuesday morning.
Does Dalot start?
Diogo Dalot will have been embarrassed Timothy Fosu-Mensah was preferred over him against Crystal Palace and he has not appeared since the FA Cup quarter-final slog at Norwich, where Solskjaer’s list of trusted players was reduced.
Luke Shaw is injured, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams are expected to sit out the LASK game. If Laird starts ahead of Dalot then he might as well keep his passport in the drawer ahead of the flight to Cologne.
United could field a bunch of competition winners and probably still progress to the quarter-finals. The LASK tie is useful in that it allows Solskjaer to rest all of his regulars and it would be a surprise if there are not 11 changes from Leicester.
Sergio Romero should resume Europa League duties, Dalot, Fosu-Mensah, and Laird are options at full-back, Mengi could come in and James Garner has already started three times in the Europa League.
Odion Ighalo has scored two in two Europa League starts, Daniel James needs a confidence booster, and Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard just need minutes.
It would be shameless stats-padding but Mason Greenwood is three goals shy of the 20 mark and three goalscorers have not broken that barrier in a single season for United since 1964-65. He took all of five minutes within his introduction in Austria to score against LASK.
Denis Law, David Herd, and John Connelly helped United to their first championship after the Munich air disaster, so the goalscoring feats of Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial would pale in comparison. For Greenwood, to tally 20 in his first complete season would be a unique achievement.