McNair broke through into the Man United first-team under Louis van Gaal last season following an injury crisis at the start of the campaign.
He impressed at centre-back and right-back for United but he has found opportunities harder to come by this time around. Mata believes McNair, as well as fellow academy graduates James Wilson, Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard, have the quality to succeed at Old Trafford.
“I think we have a lot of good and talented players in the academy, especially coming up with us,” Mata said.
“Jesse Lingard, who is doing great now… I really like Paddy McNair, his quality as a defender is something quite special. James Wilson, Andreas Pereira is an amazing player, so I think they’re working really good in the academy and I think we have a lot of players coming through. I think it’s something that this club has always done, to bring through players.”
McNair suffered an injury while playing for Northern Ireland earlier this term and it is not immediately clear when he will return to full fitness.
Chris Smalling’s excellent form, combined with the performances of Daley Blind, have meant that McNair has struggled for game time this season but there is no doubt that he will be an important part of the squad in the future. After all, van Gaal could have easily let the youngster go out on loan over the summer.