Carlisle United have today signed former Manchester United defender Joe Riley.

The 23-year-old has linked up with the Cumbrians as their fifth summer signing after his release by Bradford.

Versatile Riley, who has signed a one-year deal with an option, is back to fitness after missing last season with a cruciate knee ligament injury.

The player, who can play in either full-back position and also in midfield, joins fellow former Red Devil George Tanner in Chris Beech’s new-look Blues squad.

The Blackpool-born player was on Man Utd’s youth books from the age of six and made two first-team appearances for the Old Trafford giants.

His debut came as a sub in their 3-0 win at Shrewsbury in the FA Cup in February 2016, with then boss Louis Van Gaal then handing Riley his first start three days later in a Europa League game against Midtjylland – a game also notable for the first-team debut of forward Marcus Rashford.

Riley also captained the Red Devils’ under-23s, having started as a midfielder with the club before being converted to left-back, and also trained with the first-team squad under Jose Mourinho.

A loan spell at Sheffield United in 2017 yielded two first-team appearances and he then joined Bradford permanently in 2018 at a time the Bantams’ head of recruitment was ex-Blues manager Greg Abbott, who highlighted Riley’s “pace and energy” and his ability as a “forward-thinking, attacking full-back”.

He went on to make eight appearances but his spell with Bradford was interrupted by the knee injury last August which saw him unable to make any appearances last term.

He was close to a return to contention when the League Two season was curtailed due to the coronavirus, and was then released by the Valley Parade club at the end of his contract.

United boss Beech said on the club website: “Joe found himself out of contract in the current climate, having not played any football due to that injury. He’s worked his socks off on his fitness and is now more motivated, hungry and determined than ever. He really wants to make his mark in the game. 

“I also see the characteristics I’ve spoken about many times that I’m looking for in players we recruit in Joe. Technically he’s outstanding - his touch, movement, ball control, range of passing and technical skills are definitely up there. 

“He came through at Manchester United as a right back, but he’s got great feet so he’s equally at home playing left back. As a younger player he played in midfield. His energy levels and change of pace are a joy to watch, so I can see why that was the case.

“Carlisle will provide Joe with the perfect platform to kick on and fulfil that potential. He’s another we will support and make better in terms of footballing experience.

“At 23 he’s the right age, in the right place, at the right time.”

Riley is the latest new addition confirmed by the Blues after the arrival of Tanner, Rod McDonald, Gavin Reilly and Joshua Kayode, with Beech set to unveil further signings this week.