Wednesday 17 February 2016

Rookie Reds included in Europa League squad

United named an 18-man squad for the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie in Midtjylland, but there were some unfamiliar names in the travelling party.

19-year-old midfielder-turned left-back Joe Riley and 17-year-old defender Regan Poole have been called up by Louis van Gaal having played for the Under 21 side at Reading on Monday.

20-year-old James Weir, whom had a pivotal part in the winner in that match, also travels, along with striker Will Keane whom was introduced late on at Sunderland on Saturday as Van Gaal's senior side searched for a late goal.

Although a midfielder by trade, Riley has impressed at left-back for Warren Joyce's Reserve side this term and with Cameron Borthwick-Jackson absent with illness, Van Gaal's full-back crisis has compelled him to promote the youngster.

Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Guillermo Varela, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo are all unavailable for the foray into the Europa League, and Blackpool-born Riley has been handed the number 49 ahead of a potential United debut.

Rising through the Old Trafford ranks, Riley was the top creator for the Under-18s last season, with 10, and he has played a key role in the flamboyant, table-topping Under 21s team this time around.

Wales Under-19 international Poole left Newport County for Old Trafford in August and played 15 games for them before his transfer to United.
Incidentally, Poole joined the club on the same day as fellow teenager Anthony Martial and became Newport's youngest ever player aged 16 years and 94 days against our FA Cup opponents Shrewbury in 2014. 

He also played in the game with Reading in Leigh on Monday and has been given the number 41 shirt for the trip to Midtjylland. 

Donald Love was also on the flight to Denmark fresh from his debut at Sunderland, whilst midfielder Weir has already experienced a first-team squad this season having been on the bench for the 3-3 draw at Newcastle in the league. 

In the absence of Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial is the only recognised senior striker but Keane has an eye for goal for the Under 21s and is expected to provide the back-up from the bench. 

Van Gaal has pledged to take the Europa League seriously in pursuit of a trophy and-more importantly- a Champions League place, but the presence of the five untested youngsters will only provide added intrigue to an already fascinating tie for United. 

United squad: De Gea, Romero, Love, McNair, Smalling, Blind, Carrick, Poole, Riley, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Lingard, Pereira, Weir, Mata, Memphis, Martial, Keane. 

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