Manchester United defender Paddy McNair has admitted that he's still surprised himself by a rise from relative obscurity to the first time this season, a breakthrough he feels is down to a surprise show of faith under difficult circumstances from manager Louis van Gaal.
McNair didn't have a Wikipedia page let alone squad number before Van Gaal turned to the Northern Irish starlet on the eve of United's clash with West Ham United in September, throwing him in at the deep end with surprising results.
The 19-year-old rose to the challenge and is on course to continue a remarkable season by making his debut for Northern Ireland this week, just six months shy of his senior debut.
McNair vows to keep working
If McNair needed reminded how far he's come in a short space of time a return to Southport's Merseyrail Community Stadium earlier this month probably did the job. Last July he was an unknown member of the under-21 squad playing a pre-season friendly on Merseyside, but came back with a dozen appearances Premier League appearances to his name.
McNair was asked my MUTV to reflect on his change in status under Van Gaal, conceding: "I played there in pre-season for the Reserves against Southport and I didn't think I'd come back with 14 appearances for United under my belt. So I'm very happy.
Van Gaal's gamble pays off
"It's been great and I love playing under the manager [van Gaal] and all the staff.
"He has helped me a lot. I just think I need to improve on everything because the standard is so high to maintain a place at Manchester United.
"It's very hard and I've got to keep working."
Right-back role up for grabs in the long-term
McNair has proved a surprisingly useful squad player for Van Gaal this season, showing the versatility to adapt and perform where more experienced players have floundered.
The starlet has also recovered from setbacks with relative maturity, including being substituted well before half-time after struggling against Southampton at St Mary's in December.
Van Gaal clearly thinks the youngster has potential and with good reason, which means he shouldn't be discounted to be a regular at right-back if given time and patience to develop.
Red Devils are probably more surprised than McNair at his development under Van Gaal, but against the odds United have a defender with potential to be a regular fixture at the Theatre of Dreams for years to come.
Man United fans, is McNair's rise the biggest surprise of the season? Is it a bigger fairytale than Harry Kane's headline-grabbing exploits at White Hart Lane? Have your say in the comment box below!
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms