Swansea City are just three points from Huddersfield Town in fifth place in the Championship. An impressive 3-0 win against Peterborough last weekend was followed up with a vital 2-1 victory against fourth-placed Coventry City on Tuesday evening. Ethan Laird grabbed an assist in each of these games.
The Manchester United loanee has been a crucial member of Russell Martin‘s side, and the fact that the former MK-Dons manager brought the right-back into the Welsh side’s set-up this season shows the impressions that Laird provided in League One with the manager the season prior.
As an attacking right-back throughout the academy at Carrington, Laird has been operating as a wingback in Martin’s 3-5-2 system for both The Dons and The Swans. He has provided four assists so far this season and often tops the charts in matches for chances created. He is also brilliant at taking on players; with his quick turn of pace giving him the advantage against many opposition full-backs.
Laird’s ambition matches his talent, with the 20-year-old desperate to make it at his boyhood club, but realises that his work in the lower leagues is crucial in his development to make it at the top of the sport.
“As a young kid, I always wanted to play for Manchester United. That’s something I have always aspired to do,” Laird told WalesOnline.
“But you have to realise there are steps to take. Every person’s journey is different and there are things that you need to do to get to where you want to be.”
It’s sometimes difficult to predict how a young player will settle into life when going out on loan. Going from playing with their age-mates and friends to a dressing room full of professionals that won’t accept a poor performance. Yet, Laird has shown to take to the challenge like a duck to water in both of his stints on loan.
A naturally bubbly character, the full-back has immersed himself into each team and became a fan-favourite with Swansea fans this season, and MK Dons supporters last. Recording a video for his team’s social media account after Tuesday nights victory, Laird finished the message with a reenactment of his own chant, showing that the love that he’s receiving is truly reciprocated.
A great character. A really promising player. Ethan Laird must be in United’s plans, and he revealed that he’s regularly talking to management staff from his parent club about his development.
“We have two loan managers who watch our games every week and contact us in the week at least twice, analysing our game, telling us what we can do better, what we can do well, what we should look forward to in the next game.
“Then the first-team staff will give you a message every now and then, saying well done or good luck for this game, I’ll be watching. That’s really nice to have the likes of Darren Fletcher, Kieron McKenna watching you.”
With Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot as the current options on the right side of United’s defence, Laird could offer better offensive play from the right flank, something that some supporters would say that the side is missing at the moment.
He’s only young, and still needs further development, but his assist against Peterborough was a perfect example of his direct play on the flank and his ability to find his man in the box. After losing his man with a good run, Laird picks his head up as he enters the box and delivers a delicious low cross towards the back post, and it was Jake Bidwell who fired the ball into the back of the net.
After suffering injury-filled campaigns in his latter years in the youth team, Laird has been almost always fit since he joined MK Dons at the start of last season.
He will certainly be looking to continue to show his talents in the Championship, and then potentially force a decision for the management at United. While his defending still has room for improvement, Laird’s determination to succeed at Old Trafford is as clear as glass.
Manchester United’s future starting right-back? Maybe. Let’s wait and see.