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Man United fringe player impresses in new role and makes Northern Ireland's Euro squad

Paddy McNair was deployed in midfield once again and walked away with a Man of the Match award last night.

Image: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

PADDY MCNAIR WAS used as a utility player under Louis van Gaal at Manchester United but many are tipping him to shine in a midfield role.

Last night, he shone for Northern Ireland in their 3-0 friendly win over Belarus at Windsor Park in that position, walking away with the Man of the Match award.

Afterwards, international boss Michael O’Neill referred to McNair’s performance as having been ‘outstanding’.

The 21-year-old was handed an unexpected United debut in September 2014 when they beat West Ham 2-1 at Old Trafford and went on to feature heavily in his first campaign.

Understandably, his chances were more limited last term as competition for places intensified but he still made nine appearances in total.

Wales v Northern Ireland - International Friendly - Cardiff City Stadium Source: Nick Potts/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Initially deployed as a centre-half with the first-team, McNair has also deputised at right-back on occasion but he has always been looked upon as a deep-lying midfielder.

He joined from Ballyclare Colts as an attacking midfielder but his youth coach at United, Paul McGuinness, said he had the ability to play a ‘Michael Carrick role’. In January 2015, Gary Neville heaped praise on McNair after he pushed into midfield during an Under-21 game against Liverpool.

“He looks a really good player”, said the former United defender.

He’s a good footballer. Louis van Gaal has thrust him into the first team. He came to Man Utd as a No 10 so to play centre-back, right-back, holding midfield, he’s learning so much, and you expect so much of them when they go in the first team.”

Back in March, O’Neill played McNair further forward in the friendly game with Wales.

“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 [Steven] Davis and [Oliver] Norwood. It was encouraging to see him play as well as he did for as long as he did.”

McNair will be on the plane to France after being named in O’Neill’s 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championship.

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The group was officially unveiled today in Belfast with a spectacular video announcing the panel.

Source: OfficialIrishFA/YouTube

Northern Ireland Euro 2016 squad:

Goalkeepers: Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academical), Roy Carroll (Linfield)

Defenders: Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonathan Evans (West Bromwich Albion), Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion), Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Aaron Hughes (Free agent), Patrick McNair (Manchester United), Chris Baird (Derby County)

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood, (Reading), Corry Evans, (Blackburn Rovers), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest)

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Conor Washington (Queens Park Rangers), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic)

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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