Football is a sport filled with rivalry. But, every once in a while, the boundaries are broken and the partisan world unites over a certain story.


On this occasion, it is Manchester United's Max Taylor. The 19-year-old has been included in the first-team squad for the first time for the clash with Astana in the Europa League ​on Thursday.


While a possible debut for any teenager at the top level is a remarkable achievement in and of itself, Taylor's inclusion on the plane to Kazakhstan comes only 12 months after beginning treatment for testicular cancer.

The Manchester-born youngster joined his local club in 2014, following a successful trial and worked his way up through the age groups to United's Under-18 side in 2016/17, where he proved to be a key member of the team that won the Under-18 Premier League North trophy. 


In a club that prides itself on promoting youth, Taylor was progressing at an alarming rate, while there were high hopes for the talented centre back.


As a result, he was moved up to the Under-23 side ahead of the 2018/19 season but was tragically diagnosed with cancer in October 2018. The defender had his left testicle removed and immediately began an intensive course of chemotherapy. Thankfully, responded well to the treatment. 


After nearly a year out, Taylor returned to training towards the end of September and made his comeback to competitive football one month later, as he came on as a substitute for the Under-23s in the win over ​Swansea.


After 37 minutes, Taylor was called upon, replacing the injured Teden Mengi. The substitute was outstanding on his comeback, helping his side ease to a 4-1 win. It is often noticeable when a player is short of game time, leading to remarks such as 'off the pace', but, Taylor was assured and confident in his work, sniffing out danger, like he'd never been away, carrying the ball forward purposefully to get his side on the front foot.

The centre-back later featured for the Under-23s at Old Trafford, coming off the bench for the final 19 minutes to help the youthful Red Devils win 3-0 against Sunderland.


While it may not have been a sell out at Old Trafford, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took his seat in the directors' box and watched on as the youngsters turned on the style. 


And with Solskjaer's men already having qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League, the Norwegian has opted to take a very youthful squad away with him for the tussle with Astana. ​One of those players travelling will be Taylor.

As he began his chemo, few could have predicted that less than 12 months later, he would have earned himself a place in the ​Manchester United senior squad for a fixture in a European cup competition. 


The key word in that sentence is earned, because Taylor has worked tirelessly to get back to the level that is required, and indeed the level he expects of himself. And this is exactly what he has done. 


In a recent interview with ​BBC Sport, Taylor opened up on his treatment and the process of recovery. He revealed: "My first thought was: 'Will I play football?' But then you get to the point when you're by yourself, you can't sleep and all you're thinking is: 'This could end my life.'"


When discussing the treatment required and his scheduling, he said: "The first week it was Monday: eight hours of chemo, four hours of hydration. Tuesday: six hours of chemo, four hours of hydration. Wednesday: two hours of chemo and the rest hydration. Then I would go home and come back a week later for two hours of chemo, and finally come back a week later for another two hours of chemo. I did that three times.

"It doesn't sound too heavy, but the chemo I was having was quite toxic. The first night was the worst. You're up, shaking and sweating, but you feel freezing cold. Then the sickness starts. That first night I realised it was going to be a hard nine weeks."


But, such is his character, Taylor went on to reveal that although he has had cancer, he will not let it affect what he can and cannot do. He continued: "I am not going to neglect the fact I had cancer, but I don't want it to be what people remember me for. I want to be a good person, a great footballer and someone who gives back."


Despite his tender age, the youngster is already forging a reputation as a humble, motivated and mature character.


Taylor is an inspiration to anyone and it is truly a remarkable achievement to have been included in the squad, despite only recently making his return to competitive football. 


Whatever the result in the freezing temperatures in Kazakhstan on Thursday night, Taylor is already a winner.