Ex-Manchester United ace relishing a different kind of pressure at Sunderland

Paddy McNair

Paddy McNair

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Coming up through the ranks at Manchester United, Paddy McNair is familiar with the pressure cooker of top flight football.

The expectation levels at Old Trafford and at Sunderland may be different but the pressure is no less intense, with the Black Cats again scrapping to maintain their Premier League status.

I think my best position is left or right of a midfield three.

Sunderland remain without a league win this season. But fresh from scoring twice against QPR in the EFL Cup, McNair remains confident the league form will pick up.

“Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world, so it is a little bit different but it IS still pressure to win games,” said McNair, who hails from County Antrim.

“Our fans come down to watch us and expect us to win. In that way, it is similar.

“You want to get off to a good start and it wasn’t as good a start as we wanted but it is a long season.

“You have to keep your head up, take the positives away from the games and I am confident that we will do well this season.”

McNair’s natural ability was first spotted by Manchester United scouts in his native Northern Ireland when he was just 12 years old.

He signed in 2011 and after successfully making his way up through the youth academy went on to make 27 first team appearances for the Old Trafford giants.

Two years down the line and McNair now finds himself on Wearside in the next chapter of his professional career - and a move back to his more natural midfield role.

“Until I was 18 I played midfield and then Louis van Gaal played me centre back, so a lot of people think I am a defender but I have never really been a defender.

“Midfield, No 10, I will play wherever - as long as I score twice!

“When I was younger I scored a few goals, I have always chipped in. I have waited a little while for my first professional goal, though.”

He added: “I think my best position is left or right of a midfield three.”

The Northern Ireland international played in midfield for his country at Euro 2016 and hopes he can draw on the same spirit at Sunderland.

Having qualified for their first major finals in 30 years, Northern Ireland succeeded in reaching the knockout stages of the competition.

“Yeah, of course,” said McNair when asked if he would look to draw on Northern Ireland’s mentality to help Sunderland this season.

“We won at QPR so hopefully we can take that on into the next couple of games.

“I play for Northern Ireland as well so I am used to [not having the ball as much] when I play for them!

“You had that at Man Utd as well, sometimes when we played away at Arsenal we would only have 35% of the possession.

“I am used to it,” added McNair, with Sunderland regularly enjoying less possession than the opposition.

McNair’s start to life in the North East mirrored that of Sunderland’s start to the campaign, with neither getting off on the right foot.

McNair scored a late own goal to gift Manchester City all three points on the opening day but after a difficult start, he was recalled to the first team for the win over QPR.

Next up is the visit of Crystal Palace to the Stadium of Light tomorrow, followed by Tony Pulis’s West Bromwich Albion a week later.

McNair added: “We had a disappointing result at Spurs so the win against QPR gives us some real momentum now heading into the two home games.”