Partly due to injuries and partly due to the club’s curious fascination with buying attack-minded players, Manchester United have been forced to field two different academy graduates at centre back this season.
Tyler Blackett, a 20-year-old who’d played just 13 senior matches across two loan spells before making his Red Devils’ debut, started the season in Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation.
The Manchester-born defender began all of United’s first five games in the Premier League and shipped eight goals in that time.
His run in the first team was cut short by a straight red card against Leicester, when he felled Jamie Vardy in the penalty area to give Leonardo Ulloa the chance to slot home the fifth and final goal in that dramatic 5-3 win.
Blackett was replaced in the heart of Van Gaal’s defence by 19-year-old Northern Irishman, Paddy McNair, who made his senior competitive debut when being drafted in for the home clash with West Ham.
Since McNair’s introduction, Man United have gone unbeaten in registering a pair of 2-1 win over the Hammers and Everton, with the lad from Ballyclare receiving glowing praise for his displays.
Despite playing 282 less minutes than his fellow youthful teammate, McNair has already ran Blackett close in his defensive statistics this season.
In fact, the U21 international actually betters his English counterpart in clearances made per game, with a massive nine dwarfing Blackett’s tally of five.
Elsewhere, McNair makes two interceptions per outing compared the 2.5 Blackett has managed in his starts, while his pass completion rate is just one notch lower at 87 per cent.
It’s likely that those strong showings keep McNair in the side ahead of Blackett when the latter returns, especially if the Antrim boy performs well again next time out against West Brom, a game United are 7/10 to win.
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