McNair is a ‘top-tier footballer’
MICHAEL O’Neill says he hopes Paddy McNair gets the chance to return to the Premier League but his suitors will have to up their valuation considerably after Sunderland turned down a £2m bid from Brighton and Hove Albion.
McNair put in a man-of-thematch performance for Northern Ireland in Panama on Monday, and almost as importantly got another 90 minutes under his belt.
It highlighted why the Black Cats are looking for far more than the “derisory” offer they rejected hours earlier.
When he finally got a run of games at the end of last season, the 23-year-old showed the qualities Sunderland would love to build a team around next season. His energetic running, aerial presence and eye for goals brought qualities the Black Cats’ midfield had been seriously lacking as he recovered from a long-term injury, but also showed a player better than the level he is due to operate at in 2018-19.
“I hope his club situation sorts itself out,” Northern Ireland manager O’Neill said after the 0-0 draw in Panama City. “I know what he is capable of.
“His running power and quality is evident to see, and he is so determined to get back to the Premier League and hopefully he gets that chance.
“Paddy McNair is a Premier League player.
“The reason he isn’t is because of his injury. He joined Sunderland when they were in the Premier League. He then had a bad injury and Sunderland were relegated.
“But you’ve seen the quality in the last five or six games of the season. He scored four or five goals at the end of last season.”
Even before he damaged his cruciate knee ligaments in November 2016, McNair had not had a regular run of games since his summer move from Manchester United.
On his return he suffered a number of minor setbacks, mostly groin injuries, as his body readjusted to the demands of regular first-team football.
But after returning from the final international break of the season, he played in all but one of the eight matches, scoring in four of the last five but performing impressively in all of them.