Max Taylor: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hails Manchester United ace ahead of Europa League clash after cancer battle

Max Taylor (centre): Pictured with the Manchester United squad in Kazakhstan
Max Taylor (centre): Pictured with the Manchester United squad in Kazakhstan

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called cancer survivor Max Taylor an inspiration to the entire team after naming the teenage defender as part of Manchester United's callow squad for the mammoth trip to Kazakhstan.

Thursday's Europa League clash with Astana is the furthest the club have ever travelled for a European tie, with the 6,000-mile round trip 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 Group L encounter as a chance to give experienced players minutes and prospects a taste of first-team football.

The Norwegian has selected 10 players for the trip that have yet to make their debut, including giving a first senior call-up 19-year-old Taylor at the end of a year that started with the defender receiving chemotherapy after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"It's a fantastic story, to see him coming back," Solskjaer said in Kazakhstan.

"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.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Manchester United boss talks to the press
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Manchester United boss talks to the press

"He's an inspiration for all the players.

"You can see now when he goes out onto the pitch, there's no fear anymore.

"He's allowed to have had fear in his life. When you're on the football pitch, you should enjoy yourself and I hope that we can see him progress in his career.

"It's a chance for us to give him extra motivation as well."

Taylor is set to start on the bench against Astana, where Solskjaer confirmed 19-year-olds Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt will join 18-year-old Ethan Laird in making their debuts.

The trio will be joined in the starting line-up by third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant, who makes his full debut for United at the age of 36.

Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe and Jesse Lingard, the other experienced players in the group, will also play in freezing Kazakhstan.


Taylor's career timeline

Here the PA news agency looks at the 19-year-old's road to the squad for Thursday's Europa League clash against Astana.

  • January 2018: The Manchester-born defender signs his first professional contract at United.
  • May 2018: Forms part of the United backline as they are crowned Under-18 Premier League Northern champions.
  • October 2018: Taylor is diagnosed with testicular cancer. Has surgery to remove left testicle on October 4.
  • November 2018: He starts an intense nine-week course of chemotherapy at the Christie Hospital in Manchester.
  • February 2019: United announce that Taylor has responded successfully to cancer treatment after undergoing chemotherapy.
  • March 2019: Having waited six weeks following chemotherapy, Taylor undergoes a five-and-a-half-hour operation to remove six swollen lymph nodes.
  • May 2019: Returns to the Aon Training Complex and begins the process of rebuilding muscle mass and fitness.
  • September 2019: Taylor starts training outside, joining in with his team-mates two weeks later.
  • October 2019: The 19-year-old returns to action as a first-half substitute in Manchester United Under-23s' 4-1 win at Swansea.
  • November 2019: Taylor comes off the bench at Old Trafford as the Under-23s beat Sunderland 3-0. The centre-back is included in the first-team squad for the first time as United travel to Kazakhstan to take on Astana in the Europa League.

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