Four times Paddy McNair has started for Manchester United and four times they have won. With the 19-year-old Northern Irishman in the starting XI, United have a 100% win record this season against West Ham, Everton, Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
Yesterday, McNair had to play as part of a makeshift 3-5-2 formation alongside Antonio Valencia at right-back, a shaky Tyler Blackett and also Ashley Young at left-back after Luke Shaw went off injured. As if his job away from home against Arsenal wasn’t difficult enough, the circumstances made sure it was going to be a tough afternoon.
So it proved. Arsenal had the bulk of possession and United’s defence was constantly under pressure. It was Van Gaal’s tactic – soak up the pressure and hit fast on the counter-attack. It worked, and McNair played his part in the success.
McNair continues to put in performances way beyond his years. At 19, he doesn’t have the fully grown physique of a Premier League centre-back but he more than makes up for it with his positional sense and intelligence.
It’s still early doors for McNair and Blackett’s current plight goes to show you can’t expect too much too soon from a youngster in their career but whatever has been thrown at McNair thus far has bounced off him.
Right now, McNair has to be considered one of the first defenders on the team sheet and until the likes of Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans come back in to compete for his spot, that should remain the case.