Euro 2016: Northern Ireland’s Paddy McNair hopes to impress José Mourinho

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward and Paddy McNair in action with Belarus' Andrey Gorbunov

José Mourinho sent Paddy McNair a good luck text for the European Championship and may have received a brusque reply but for an alert from Manchester United, the Northern Ireland international has disclosed.

The new United manager has contacted all the club’s players involved in France including McNair, who is in contention to start Northern Ireland’s first tournament game in 30 years on Sunday against Poland. The 21-year-old made only four starts under Louis van Gaal last season, having made 14 in the previous campaign, and is determined to impress the Dutchman’s successor at the European Championship. But their relationship may have got off to an unfortunate start had McNair, who suspected Mourinho’s message was a hoax, not read a warning sent by United.

McNair said: “He sent me a text message wishing me good luck for the tournament. It was nice of him to send that. I did reply saying I was looking forward to playing in the tournament and to working under him. Luckily, the club had sent all the players an email beforehand telling us he was going to text us. I know plenty of people back in Ballyclare who would have thought nothing of winding me up; then José might have got a reply he wasn’t expecting.”

The United defender, who plays in his natural midfield role for Northern Ireland’s manager, Michael O’Neill, has also been wished well by Sir Alex Ferguson, who is expected to attend Sunday’s game in Nice. “It was a chance meeting in a lift after the FA Cup final,” McNair said.

“Sir Alex was standing there with his wife. He wished me good luck for the tournament and said he’d be there watching. Hopefully he will have a Northern Ireland scarf around his neck. I’m not sure the other players know he is coming. He has been to a few Doncaster games to watch Luke McCullough. He watches lots of games. He could be at England’s game on Saturday. It’s nice of him to come and support me.”

Northern Ireland’s leading striker, Kyle Lafferty, has declared himself fit despite damaging his groin during training on Tuesday. The forward, who scored seven goals in qualifying, missed training on Wednesday and required a scan in Lyon that gave him the all-clear to resume training on Thursday.

Lafferty said: “It’s feeling good. I trained by myself yesterday, did a few runs, a few twists and turns and it feels good. Seeing the way I fell, the way I landed, I thought the worst but I came through it and got the scan results which were all clear and I’ve never felt better. When I had the sharpest pain in my groin, I thought the worst, as you do, but the longer the day went on, I started feeling better as I was getting more stiff and that was probably a good sign. I have started training intensely again and I feel great.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andy Hunter in Saint-Georges-de-Reneins, for The Guardian on Friday 10th June 2016 22.30 Europe/London

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