Paddy McNair can take confidence from his performance against Cambridge United on Tuesday evening.
Manchester United’s young defender, who made his debut earlier this season against West Ham United during a defensive injury crisis for the club, started with a string of impressive performances. He has shown that he has great potential against the likes of West Ham, Everton and Arsenal.
However, the Irishman’s confidence was checked by a poor performance when the Red Devils faced Southampton in December.
He was taken off after a string of mistakes in the initial stages of the game before half-time. His manager, Louis van Gaal, was quoted at the time stating that he had little choice but to make the substitution.
“He (McNair) hadn't any confidence. He had already given three big chances away.
“I had to (substitute him), it's very disappointing for me and also for Paddy, but I had to because as a manager, I'm responsible to win. And I think, after the change, we played a little better.”
Since that game in December, which United went on to win, Mcnair has featured infrequently. When he has appeared it has usually been from the bench when the game has already been won by United.
He started on Tuesday night though against Cambridge in the FA Cup fourth round replay at Old Trafford and was excellent. Playing at right-back gave the young defender - who played as a striker in his youth - license to get forward, effectively and benefit his team’s attacking momentum.
He played a terrific pass to Angel Di Maria in the build up to United’s first goal, scored by Juan Mata and was a constant threat on the right throughout the game.
It was a performance McNair can be proud of and despite the level of opposition, was perhaps his best in a red shirt.
It is not uncommon for a manager to take young players out of the side for an extended period during the season and history shows that Van Gaal has an excellent record with young players. He has nurtured and aided in the development of the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
In that sense the young players at United, which include James Wilson and Paddy McNair, can be confident that Van Gaal will bring the best out of them.