Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has confirmed that Paddy McNair will keep his place in the starting XI to face Everton on Sunday afternoon, after producing a very impressive performance on his full debut against West Ham United.
McNair was thrown in at the deep end last Saturday thanks to an injury crisis that shows no sign of leaving Old Trafford anytime soon, but stood up to the daunting task admirably and more than played his part in helping United cling on to a crucial 2-1 victory.
The 19-year-old produced a match-saving headed clearance late on and kept his composure in a makeshift backline alongside summer signing Marcos Rojo, a centre-back partnership which is primed to be tested considerably by Romelu Lukaku this weekend.
McNair keeps his place, Mata also in line for start
In his pre-match press conference for the Toffees test Van Gaal revealed: "We still have three central defenders injured so he [McNair] shall play. He is the only player who can play in the right-sided defensive position.
"I chose him last week and he was very good. It's difficult for a player like him to maintain that level - that is his biggest challenge."
Van Gaal also admitted that Wayne Rooney's suspension looks very likely to hand Juan Mata a first-team reprieve, after the Spanish schemer was dropped in United's last two matches.
He said: "Juan Mata has played very well in his [Rooney's] position," stated van Gaal at the pre-match press conference.
"I have to choose. I will miss Wayne because he is the captain of the team but Mata can also play very well."
Nine first-team stars unavailable
Van Gaal is without no fewer than eight potential starters this weekend through injury, plus Rooney thanks as he begins a three-match ban for kicking Stewart Downing last weekend.
Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are all on the list of sidelined stars and make United's defensive options look threadbare to say the very least.
One silver lining to United's mounting list of first-team stars on the treatment table is it has given unheralded academy stars the chance to shine, most notably Tyler Blackett and now McNair.
The Northern Irish youngster didn't have a wikipedia page before his unexpected debut against West Ham, but a whirlwind rise towards the first team will continue this weekend and hand McNair the chance to prove himself by keeping Lukaku quiet against the odds.
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