First Team News

Is Paddy McNair vying for a permanent place at Manchester United?

Four starts for Manchester United, four wins; a late headed clearance off the line on his debut, firmly sealing Romelu Lukaku in his back pocket in his second game, being part of a back four that kept a Premier League clean sheet (which is far more impressive than it sounds at Manchester United), and most recently, coming away from the Emirates on the winning side.

In other words, Paddy McNair has enjoyed an excellent start to a very promising career at Manchester United. On the eve of Manchester United’s encounter with West Ham, the first match following their capitulation at Leicester, speculation was rife in terms of who might fill the ever-void right sided CB role.

As the time approached for Manchester United’s twitter account to do their fancy little picture of the line-up to take on West Ham, the general consensus was that it would be Tom Thorpe who would make his debut (not Paddy McNair).

But not for the first time we were all duly proved wrong by Louis van Gaal’s selection – this unknown Northern Irish teenager was set to go up against a West Ham front-line which had swept aside Liverpool just a week earlier.

However, as Louis van Gaal’s tenure has gone on, it has become rather clear as to why Paddy McNair has been chosen instead of the more senior and acclaimed Tom Thorpe. The reason Louis van Gaal favours the former is purely down to the fact that he is van Gaal’s sort of player; in other words, he is disciplined, resolute, and most notably uses his brain – Paddy McNair isn’t the sort to unnecessarily look for row Z every time he comes under a bit of pressure, which is an attribute commonly associated with the likes of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, even Rojo at times.

Not only is Paddy McNair a good reader of the game, he’s a genuinely assured character who isn’t afraid to get on the ball and make things happen – against Crystal Palace, he looked to assert himself on the game in the second half, making some surging forward runs and providing the impetuous to kill the game off. The central defender made 2 key passes and had 80 touches of the ball; very rarely had a CB looked so confident in a Manchester United this season.

The reasoning behind his equanimity emanates from the fact that McNair grew up playing as a central midfielder when he was younger. His level headedness and reluctance to dive into tackles shown in his 5 appearances in the senior team is testimonial to the way he’s developed as a footballer. By saying this I’m not implying in any way that he is a soft touch, either. His cleaning up of Jack Wilshere last Saturday depicted his ability and desire to put in crunching tackles.

With Paddy McNair becoming a more refined CB every game, his experience in the middle of the park is most definitely serving to help him stake a claim for being a genuine contender to be a regular starter at Manchester United. Whether Louis van Gaal holds that view as well remains to be seen; once Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo return to the side it will be somewhat awkward for the manager, leaving out Paddy McNair following such strong performances would be somewhat unjustifiable.

With that said, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that young players are a different sort of mustard. They’re more temperamental and naïve, fatigue in a way that is unlike the way 27 year olds fatigue, and have a generally more fluctuating mind-set.

Overplaying them can be detrimental to their progression and underplaying them can be equally damning; the balancing act required with the utilising of youngsters isn’t something alien to Louis van Gaal – and with the constant injuries occurring in Manchester United’s defence, Paddy McNair could naturally get a healthy number of games for somebody of his age with Phil Jones injuring himself every 4 games or so.

He may sit out for something like 3 games and then play something like 3 games, staring in home games against lesser opposition, providing the defensive injury trauma eventually ceases at Manchester United. If it doesn’t let up then he’ll have no choice but to play more or less every week. For his sake, let’s hope that doesn’t become the case.

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By Leo Nieboer

Mourning the loss of Danny Welbeck

12 replies on “Is Paddy McNair vying for a permanent place at Manchester United?”

We should not even think of buying a defender for £40M.
Thats wasting money. This guy is going to b the best ever man Utd defender

isn’t the sort to unnecessarily look for row Z every time he comes under a bit of pressure – what’s row z?

mcnair was more calm and composed than smalling in the arsenal game.
smalling had a difficult time marking welbeck.

It probably means that he wouldn’t look to smash the ball as far as he can just cause some player puts him under pressure. Good prospect for united, hope he continues to improve.

I agree, paddy unlike the weak liabilities that are the rubbish clamity duo of jones and Smalling, is a true united style defender, he strong, giftly talented and adventurous.

unlike Smalling and jones, paddy is trustworth, a powerful defender and is already becoming someone we need to play every week.

InEvans, Rojo, Blackett, paddy will have a strong figure next to him in defence, with these four united are in safe hands, four top quality defenders with a world class keeper in DeGea behind them, the future is bright.


Smalling and Jones are not laughing stocks. Players like them are essential to a team. Both are versatile. One bad performance does not depict a players capability. Smalling had a bad game against City but came back strongly against Arsenal. He played brilliantly. Smalling and Jones are both tall and capable of taking on any striker and both are young as well. But Jonny Evans is another story. At 26 yrs of age he is still doing the same mistakes as a teenager and is def not our standard. Evans should be sold.

I don’t know why some people like hating others even when it’s obvious that they can’t do what the people that they r hating can do what has Jones n smalling to these so called idiots I wonder how they will feel should they read such things been said about them I agree paddy is good n he should get more game time even when all our defenders r back it will aid his development that is why we v van gaal

Er maybe emeka its because smalls and jones ain’t united standard.
both are error prone on a gamely bases and bring nothing to the team but weakness.

So far so good for McNair. He is defensively cool, and thoughtful in the way he brings the ball forward. A talent with potential that van Gaal will nurture. Play him when he is ready to be played, rest him when he needs to be.

Blackett doesn’t display the same class as McNair. When he tries to be cool he becomes too casual. His inexperience finds him out. Still, he will have his chance to develop.

Jonny Evans has been around a while, though still relatively young for a centre-back and has had the advantage of having learned by playing alongside Vidic and Ferdinand. His career is becoming injury-blighted. Whether he would be first choice as centreback when there is competition for places is questionable.

Alas Smalling and Jones, once seen as the successors to Ferdinand and Vidic, are getting a reputation as a double act more akin to Mel and Griff. Phil Jones’ admirable commitment is countered by his old school, full-blooded tackles which leave him too often on the injury list. He needs to challenge opponents with his brain as well as his brawn, if he is to have an injury-free run and have a career at United. Smalling is a decent utility defender who frustrates with the inconsistency of his performances. Worth his place as a squad player, especially when we get back into Europe next season and more games are played.

When everyone is available there should be competition for places in the two (or three) centreback positions. McNair and Jones could be the pairing, but that presupposes that McNair will develop to his potential and that Jones will develop more composure with his tackling thus avoiding too many self-inflicted injuries.

Of course, all this could be out of the window if van Gaal gets out the chequebook in January or in the summer.

Never ceaces to amaze me the number of people who still rate Smalling and Jones. Not only that, but someone on here actually mentioned they’re essential to the team. Lol!!

People forget how immense Smalling ,Jones and Evans were in previous seasons.Am sure they will prove you all wrong just as Fellaini is shutting you up .
Awesome article I love Paddy McNair he has Rio’s touch

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