Sunday 18 August 2019

Chris Baird warns Paddy McNair against becoming a utility player

Chris Baird has advised Northern Ireland team-mate Paddy McNair to beware the tag of 'utility man'.

Like Baird, Manchester United youngster McNair is comfortable in a variety of positions.

While the 33-year-old has found that to his advantage at times - totting up 75 international caps at right-back, centre-back and defensive midfield - he also believes his versatility has held him back on occasion.

Most of McNair's United appearances have come at the heart of defence, but he also played as a full-back and a deep-lying anchorman in his short international career.

And Baird, who sees McNair as his long-term successor in the national side, has offered the benefit of his experience.

"I see certain qualities in Paddy that I had at that age coming through...he can play any position," said Baird.

"Personally, I wish I had held down one position. Say right-back, for instance.

"I played most of my early career there and it wasn't until a few years later I started playing midfield.

"It's down to Paddy. If he wants to hold down one position, go for it. He has that quality.

"Sometimes it has been a hindrance for me. Sometimes you're needed here, needed there, other games not at all. It's his own personal preference.

"Wherever he chooses, I think he'll have a fantastic career in football."

McNair is training with his team in Belfast but will play no part in Friday's friendly against Latvia by agreement with his club.

He has not played competitively since suffering an abdominal injury against Finland last month but agreed to meet up with Michael O'Neill's squad after Chris Brunt's withdrawal.

Baird and McNair could both benefit from their range of skills when O'Neill names his 23-man squad for the European Championship, but the Derby captain is in no rush to hand over his starting jersey just yet.

"He's next in line but I'm not finished yet," he said with a smile.

"Paddy's at the best club in the world, pretty much. He's getting the best training and so on.

"It's a matter of time. Obviously, when I do eventually finish, I imagine he'll step into my shoes.

"He's got all the qualities in the world and I wish him all the best and I hope he has a fantastic career. He's technically very good and I think he's got all the qualities he needs to be a Manchester United player."

PA Media

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