Michael O’Neill praises Paddy McNair’s performance in midfield for Northern Ireland

by Ben Topliss

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has praised Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair following his display in midfield in the friendly against Wales on Thursday.

O’Neill used McNair, a defender by trade, in a holding midfield role behind Steven Davis and Oliver Norwood as Northern Ireland extended their unbeaten run to nine games with a 1-1 draw in Cardiff.

McNair performed admirably in the position and he played a part in Craig Cathcart’s opening strike.

“I was really pleased with him,” O’Neill said.

“He’s just 20, not played a lot of first-team football with Manchester United and typically when he plays for Manchester United he plays at centre-back or sometimes as a full-back but I think that’s his best position, where we played him.

“He was a physical presence but he showed his quality on the ball. He just needs to get used to playing at this level. I enjoyed him in there in that midfield with Davis and Norwood.

“It was encouraging to see him play as well as he did for as long as he did. If you look at Paddy’s games in recent weeks, they would have been development games for Manchester United, it’s a huge step up and I thought he handled it very well.”

McNair enjoyed a promising campaign at Man United last season under Louis van Gaal but he has found chances harder to come by this term.

The likes of Marcus Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have all made the step up over the course of the campaign but McNair has often been overlooked. Perhaps his display for his country will persuade van Gaal to think twice about his inclusion in the squad.

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