Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 countdown: Louis Van Gaal strikes out at forward thinking Paddy McNair

By Steven Beacom

Paddy McNair had just delivered a decent performance. Playing as part of a three-man defence, the Northern Ireland star could have been content with his first full match of the season for Manchester United as they drew 1-1 at high-flying Leicester City.

The United back line may not have prevented Jamie Vardy from breaking a goalscoring record when he netted for the 11th successive Premier League game, but the in-form Foxes were largely kept in check.

McNair, having worked himself back to fitness after being injured on international duty in October, may have hoped to hear positivity from his manager after Saturday night's fixture.

Not for the first time in his career, however, United boss Louis van Gaal threw a curve ball, blaming McNair for offering Leicester a second-half opportunity on the break.

Van Gaal said: "In the second-half they had a good chance; we gave the ball away because McNair thought he was a striker at that moment and then the channels were open and they could run in them."

That'll make Paddy think again about joining in on an attack, even though the chance was not taken by Leicester!

The criticism was harsh. The game at Leicester was another illustration why 20-year-old McNair has a bright future ahead, slotting into the three-man defence comfortably.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill will have watched with interest given it is a tactic he is likely to use in the Euro 2016 finals.

As for the versatile McNair, he is delighted to be back after the injury he sustained in the 1-1 draw with Finland.

"It was a weird injury," explained the young man from Ballyclare.

"The doctor said I'd ruptured my liver, and I thought I'd just bruised a few ribs, so it was a bit of a shock."

Seven up for Magennis as McGinn hits the target too

Another weekend and more goals for Northern Ireland strikers in the Scottish Premiership.

International Manager Michael O'Neill will be encouraged that they continue to find the net.

On Saturday Josh Magennis hit his seventh goal of the season for Kilmarnock. Unfortunately his team were on the end of a 5-2 defeat at home to Partick Thistle.

Billy McKay was also on target in a losing cause as he netted for Dundee United in their 2-1 reverse against Hamilton at Tannadice.

Niall McGinn's goal, though, helped Aberdeen to a 3-1 victory over Ross County.

Other Northern Ireland aces to score at the weekend included Corry Evans for Blackburn in their 2-2 Championship draw with Sheffield Wednesday while it was the same result between Wycombe and Portsmouth in League Two with Caolan Lavery netting for Pompey.

Belfast Telegraph