Meet the Manchester United youngsters making up Louis van Gaal’s squad tonight

SoccerBy Colm Hayes
Will Keane pictured with Jesse Lingard
Will Keane pictured with Jesse Lingard

Manchester United’s threadbare squad has seen five young guns called into the squad for tonight’s Europa League game against FC Midtjylland, three of whom have yet to make a senior appearance.

Will Keane

The most well-known of the quintet, Keane was loaned out to Preston North End at the beginning of the season where he managed just two goals in 22 appearances.

The striker is eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland through his father. He has made a series of appearances for underage England sides though but is yet to notch a senior cap for Roy Hodgson's team.

Recalled to Old Trafford in the midst of a United goal drought, the 23-year-old scored five times in the U21 side’s 7-0 hammering of Norwich City recently, including this delightful effort:

Donald Love

The subject of a ferocious amount of puns last Saturday when he made his senior debut in the 2-1 defeat to Sunderland, the 21-year-old is likely to start against United’s Danish opponents due to a serious lack of defensive reinforcements.

Love has played underage for Scotland, qualifying through his grandmother, but could yet fall for the charms of England having been born in Rochdale.

With Matteo Darmian, who Love replaced in the loss, failing to recover from injury and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson not travelling due to illness, it looks to be a toss-up between the young defender and Paddy McNair as to who plays left-back and who takes up their natural right-sided position in defence.

Love tackles Sunderland's Wahbi Khazri during United's Premier League defeat

Regan Poole

Poole is the first of three youngsters who are in Van Gaal’s squad but yet to make a senior appearance for the club. Formerly of Newport County, the defender had a trial with United’s fierce rivals Liverpool in May 2015 before joining the Red Devils ahead of the close of the new season's transfer window.

Poole only made his first appearance for the club in an U21 fixture at the beginning of February, having had to wait months to gain international clearance after his switch from the Welsh side. The 17-year-old only came on in the final minute in an away fixture against Everton U21s.

The Wales underage international operates at centre-half, giving Van Gaal the option of switching Daley Blind out to left-back for the Europa League tie.

Regan Poole

Joe Riley

Named as a “utility player” by the club’s website, Riley sounds like a modern-day John O’Shea. Able to play right-back, right-midfield and centre-midfield, the 19-year-old has mainly been placed in a left-back role for the U21 side.

The academy graduate, who impressed as a winger in the U18 team the previous season, offers yet another option to the Red Devils in defence. His rise in the game has been so quick that there has been no time for a Wikipedia page to be created for the defender.

Joe Riley and James Weir pictured in training ahead of the first-leg fixture

James Weir

An attacking midfielder, Weir is the most likely of the young quintet to begin on the bench but has come in for praise from Van Gaal for his instincts in the final third.

"Jesse Lingard’s competitor is Memphis Depay, but it could also be James Weir," Louis van Gaal revealed at his press conference ahead of the Midtjylland trip.

"You have never heard of James Weir. He plays in that position.

"He is a very good player, in my opinion. He has to learn a lot, and if he is open to that, he can play in the first-team."

The 20-year-old, who holds caps for England at U16 and U18 level, is also yet to grace the pages of Wikipedia, though both himself and Riley are likely in a race between making their United bows and making their first appearance on the encyclopedic website.