'˜Right move for McNair' says O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is hoping the summer transfer window will prove a positive one for his squad.
At yesterday’s press conference to announce his 23-man panel for the upcoming World Cup qualifier in the Czech Republic, the international boss spoke of his admiration for Paddy McNair’s desire to push through a transfer out of Old Trafford.
The Ballyclare man had originally been rumoured to be leaving Manchester United on a loan deal but ended up joining Sunderland on a permanent basis.
Now O’Neill is hoping that move could have positive ramifications for his Northern Ireland side, with McNair set to feature in his favoured position.
“It was always going to be difficult for Paddy with the change of manager at Manchester United,” said O’Neill. “They have strengthened in positions where Paddy was going to challenge so it was important for Paddy to get the opportunity to play.
“It’s also important for him to go to a club where the manager knows him. He’s done that.
“Paddy had a lot of opportunities and there were a lot of clubs that would have taken him but I think he has made the right move.
“He’s going to play as a midfield player predominatly as well, which I think is important. He didn’t play at all at Manchester United as a midfield player and obviously we see him in that position at international level.
“I think he’s in a good place. The great thing about it was he wanted to go on a permanent basis. That shows his attitude and ambition to try and kick his career on and establish himself in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, yet to get a transfer this summer is forward Kyle Lafferty. He has found regular game-time hard to come by at Norwich in recent seasons and while O’Neill didn’t wish to recommend a transfer, he made little secret of his desire to see his players get regular first team action.
“Kyle’s game time has been limited for the last two years and as a player, it catches up with you,” said O’Neill. “It was difficult for him in France because he had only started four games all season.
“Whatever happens now has to be the right thing for Kyle. The fact that he started in midweek and scored is a positive. He’s been in the 18 this season most weeks so that’s a positive as well.
“As long as he is happy, fit and ready to play, that is my main concern.”
Another Northern Ireland player rumoured to be set for a late move is West Brom defender Jonny Evans. Arsenal have been linked with the former Manchester United man.
And a move back to one of the top clubs in England wouldn’t shock his international boss.
“For me, Jonny could play in a top four or top six club and it doesn’t surprise me that there is interest in him based on the summer he had and the good season he had for West Brom,” said O’Neill.
“His appearances were curtailed in the last 18 months through injury and suspension at Manchester United so last year was a very important one in Jonny’s career.
“I thought Jonny was brilliant in France. We had some great performances right through the team but Jonny was the one who had the most to deal with because he’s not a natural left back or even (used to) playing on the left side of a back three.
“His performances defensively against the big players like Yarmolenko or Gareth Bale, when you look at how he stifled their effectiveness, showed what a top level player Jonny is.”