Few fans were familiar with Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair prior to the weekend, but the Northern Irishman’s performance in the 2-1 home win over West Ham United suggested that he could be set for a bright future at Old Trafford.
Injuries to Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, as well as suspension for Tyler Blackett, saw Louis van Gaal forced to give the 19-year-old his first-team debut on Saturday at centre-back and, despite his lack of experience, he certainly didn’t look out of place facing top-flight opposition.
A relative novice at the position, having recently converted from the midfield, McNair only made his first start for the club's under-21 side last February, but the stats show that his response to being thrown in at the deep end was far from nervy.
|Team||Total Clearance||Effective Clearance||Interception||Interception Won||Total Pass||Pass Acc||Touches||Unsuccessful Touch||Mins|
|Patrick McNair||Man Utd||13||13||1||1||53||83.02%||67||0||90|
McNair's 13 effective clearances were in fact the most across the Premier League on Saturday, while he also prevented a likely Enner Valencia equaliser on 83 minutes with an impressive angled header as a West Ham cross shot across the face of goal.
The under-21 international didn't need to record a tackle on the afternoon, while he contested just one lost duel, but it was an assured outing for a teenager and one which earned him the praise of numerous figures, including his manager.
'He played very well,' Van Gaal told MUTV. 'I could have imagined a performance like this before the match because he’s a very good player. Mostly, players like this have good debuts.
'I’m very pleased for him that we won, because he played very well and his goal-saving header in the second half was fantastic. He was also very good with the ball at his feet.'
It remains to be seen how many more first-team opportunities McNair will get over the coming weeks and months but, after a worthy display in trying circumstances, things look extremely promising for the future.