Manchester United defender Max Taylor has expressed gratitude to the club, saying that he couldn’t have asked for more from the club as they offered him support through his battle with cancer, and now a return to the football pitch.
The 19-year-old is part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad to face Astana in the Europa League. This is coming 12 months after he underwent chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer. A debut for him on Thursday will be one of the sporting stories for the year 2019.
Taylor signed a professional contract with Man United in January 2018. However, he saw his world take a tumble 7 months later when a cyst in his testicle became bigger. His left testicle was removed on October 4 and a biopsy revealed that he had primary cancer. A CT scan showed that it had affected his abdomen, the lymph nodes in the abdomen, as well as a few specks on the lungs.
He had to go through a trying nine-week course of chemotherapy which involved 8 hours of chemo and 4 hours of hydration daily. The thorough treatment got rid of the cancer although more surgery was needed for the removal of swollen lymph nodes; three on his left side and three near the aorta, as well as one that had gone onto the main artery which transports blood to the heart.
“It was sort of a time where I am in no man’s land here – I can’t go back to what I normally do, I still feel ill from the chemo,” Taylor said of the six-week wait for his cells to recover enough for the five-and-a-half-hour operation in March.
“I’ve got the all clear, but I can’t really be that happy because I just had a big surgery, can’t go back to football. That was like the low point because I was still in, couldn’t really do much like things you take for granted. I couldn’t even sit up because it was a cut straight through my abdominal.”
He returned to training in May and spoke of the support he received from the club’s coaching and management staff. He disclosed how Jose Mourinho offered words of encouragement to him saying: “Don’t worry about it, you will be OK, you’re a fighter” – and Solskjaer has also been supportive.
He added: “I remember the first day I came in to see the doctors and staff and I still wasn’t that well”.
“I was still a bit frail when I was walking and stuff. I’d get out of breath, even just going upstairs or whatever. When I went for breakfast he took me into his office and introduced me to coach Mark Dempsey, who I hadn’t met before, and we saw Kieran and Carrick.
“Then, after that, they took me outside training and just watched the session. It was amazing because I hadn’t obviously been back and then to go over and watch the first team and just stand with them and have a chat was really uplifting.”
Taylor came on as a substitute for the under-23 side in their win against Sunderland last Friday and is now on course to make his senior debut for the club.
“There’s a lot of people out there who think, like I did, that people only remember them for having cancer,” Taylor said.
“They’d be like ‘ah, that’s what you’ve done, you’re amazing to get out of that’.
“But I think the message is that you can be more than that – and I want to be more than that. Yeah, it’s a part of me and I’m not going to hide from it. But that’s what it is: it’s a part of me, it doesn’t define me.
“The cancer is something that has happened, but it’s not going to be what people remember me for. I don’t just want to be a footballer; I want to be someone who people look up to in terms of raising money and helping others.”