Sunderland defender Louis Laing is on trial at Manchester United after being told he will be released by the Black Cats in the summer.
The centre-back was rated as one of the top prospects to come out of the club’s Academy of Light when he was offered professional terms in 2009, but he is not one of the players that the club will retain next season.
And that has opened the door for a surprise chance at Old Trafford, where he has been invited to train this week – and could be set to turn out for the club’s under-21 side on Thursday.
Laing’s name has been circulated to clubs by his representative and he is understood to have trained with Championship side Blackburn Rovers last week. His opportunity to revive his career at Manchester United might have taken a few by surprise, but the 6ft 2in defender represented England from under-16 through to under-19 level and was tipped for the top when he signed terms with Sunderland.
He looked impressive on his senior bow with the Black Cats in 2011, when he came on for John Mensah in an end-of-season encounter against Wolves, but his Sunderland career was blighted by injuries and he was farmed out to Wycome Wanderers on loan.
With Ellis Short ordering a root-and-branch review of the club in the wake of a potentially disastrous season, Sunderland’s Academy is under scrutiny with sporting director Lee Congerton the latest to cast an eye on the Academy of Light.
They have produced a succession of England internationals at all ages, with Jack Colback and Jordan Henderson becoming Premier League regulars after passing through the Academy. But many of the younger players in the system at the moment are facing an uncertain future.
Laing is one of them and even though he has failed to fulfil his potential, he retains enough of a reputation from his initial burst on to the scene to have secured a trial at Manchester United.
Just as their senior side are in transition, Manchester United’s Academy is at a crossroads with the club having released a number of under-age players. They are looking at more experienced youngsters to join their reserve set-up and Laing’s relative experience is seen as a possible asset.
As Sunderland’s future plans continue to formulate, their immediate priority is pinching enough Premier League points to mount the most unlikely of escapes from the relegation zone.
The club looked dead and buried after being edged out by Everton 10 days ago, but brilliant results at Manchester City and Chelsea have made this weekend’s clash with fellow strugglers Cardiff City one of the biggest that the club have played in many years.
Poyet is set to retain the same XI for the third game running and will once again look to Fabio Borini to spearhead his attack after praising him as a “top, top professional”.
The Uruguyan would dearly love to re-sign the Italian striker in the summer, but is realistic about where the forward’s future may lie. Whatever happens he will send him on his way with a ringing endorsement and recommendation to anyone in the football world.
He said: “He’s got everything that you need as a professional football player. It’s a pleasure to have him. I mean, I would recommend him to anyone in the world because he’s a top, top professional.
“You can like him, more or less, as a player. He can play up front, wide. They are decisions that we make. But as a professional, he’s an absolute pleasure to have.”