Had it not have been for the injuries to Englishmen Chris Smalling and Phil Jones along with that of a senior Jonny Evans and the suspension of the recently first-teamer, Tyler Blackett – millions of fans around the world would have been oblivious to the name Paddy McNair – at least for a couple of seasons.
The young and previously unheard of defender made his bow for the senior team against one of the league’s most unpredictable sides – West Ham United – at Old Trafford in their 2-1 victory over the weekend. While many fans had their hearts in their mouths, perhaps expecting the worst of the 19-year-old, come the final whistle, the youngster received applause from all quarters of the Theatre of Dreams.
With his debut now out of the way, we pull out the encyclopaedias as we seek to uncover the defender who has been deemed ‘a future defensive midfielder’ by United’s youth team coaches.
McNair – born in Ballyclare, Northern on April 27, 1995 – arrived from Ballyclare Colts as a midfielder in 2011, at the age of 16.
Among the qualities that immediately became evident was his comfort while on the ball. However, in the season 2012/13, citing injuries in defence, coach Paul McGuinness was forced to deploy the promising midfielder alongside Liam Grimshaw at the back.
Through his performances, it became obvious McNair was a precious talent, whose versatility only made him more valued. According to McGuinness back then, he explained the Northern Irish’s best position would not be pinpointed for another couple of years, although believed the player would ultimately cement a position as a defensive midfielder.
In the season 2013/14, McNair signed on as a third-year scholar in time and looked set to be handled carefully before being thrust into Under-21 action. Warren Joyce soon introduced the lad into the U-21 squad, describing the player as ‘one of the most improved players in the squad.’ Thus, it became inevitable that those sparkling remarks would be followed by a regular place in the starting XI. And such was the pivotal role he played for Joyce’s side, it was his last-gasp strike at Reading that ensured a top-four place in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
At the tender age of 19, McNair has already begun accumulating European competition games under his belt, albeit the U-21 Champions League campaign. Last season, the young Northern Irish was sent off against Bayer Leverkusen for two bookable offences – already proving a vital lesson for the player.
Having tasted first team football in Europe’s elite league – the Barclays English Premier League – the youngster will be more than determined to turn out for the senior side. While it is naive to believe one accomplished display would equate to a frequent first team appearances, the youngster – just as Reece James did during pre-season – seems to have seized his chance to impress and will now provide an option for the star-studded Manchester United outfit.
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