Belfast Telegraph

Mourinho text is boost for McNair

Paddy lifted by Jose and wants Fergie to wear NI scarf

By Steven Beacom

Paddy McNair will enter the Euro 2016 tournament with the backing of two of the greatest managers ever.

Earlier this week, the Northern Ireland star told how former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson wished him well for France and yesterday he revealed that new Old Trafford supremo Jose Mourinho had been in touch with a good luck message too.

The 21-year-old, who could start against Poland in Nice tomorrow, was relieved that United sent him an email to look out for communication from Mourinho. Otherwise, he admits, he may have thought one of his friends from Ballyclare was playing a prank.

"He sent me a text message wishing me good luck for the tournament. That was nice of him. I was lucky I'd read the email - I'm sure there's a few people from Ballyclare who have my number," said McNair with a smile.

"I just replied to say thanks a lot, that I was looking forward to the tournament and looking forward to working with him. I'm sure he'll be watching the tournament and I'll be trying my best to impress him and hopefully he likes what he sees."

A few weeks before he had discussed Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 hopes with the legendary Ferguson after a chance meeting in a London lift following United's FA Cup final victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley.

It was then that Ferguson told McNair that he was going to be cheering on Northern Ireland against the Poles.

"It was after the FA Cup final when I met him. I was on my way to reception to get a taxi to go and join up with the Northern Ireland squad for our pre-Euro 2016 training camps," said McNair.

"He was going down with his wife. He wished me good luck for the tournament and said he'd be there watching.

"I've spoken to him a few times before, although I never played under him, I was only 17. It's nice of him to come along - hopefully he'll have a Northern Ireland scarf on."

McNair states the fact that he plays for United helps him overcome nerves, even when he is about to play the biggest game of his life.

"I don't feel any nerves, it's just really excitement, representing your country at a major tournament, it's a dream come true," he said.

"It's something you should look forward to and not be nervous about.

"I'm used to playing at Manchester United, the pressure there is massive.

"That will stand me in good stead. I know we'll be going in against world class players but I'm used to that, that's a normality for me."

McNair adds that the levels of pre-match preparation under manager Michael O'Neill and his backroom staff is in line with what he is used to at Old Trafford.

Louis van Gaal, sacked at the end of the season, gave McNair his first United start and liked video analysis as much as O'Neill.

"With Van Gaal there was a lot of video analysis and evaluations after games.

"When you come away for internationals you do look at the opponents and analyse them, see the areas that you can exploit, so in that way it's similar," said McNair, who believes his best position is in midfield but is in line for a spot at right wing-back against the Poles.

On that subject, McNair commented: "I don't mind where I play - right wing-back, centre-back, right-back in a four, centre midfield… left wing, goalkeeper!"

McNair has so much potential, he could probably do a job in goal. O'Neill will need him at his best in an outfield role.

Belfast Telegraph