Paddy McNair
Paddy McNair has started seven Premier League games this season Getty

Manchester United legend Gary Neville has tipped centre-back Paddy McNair to have a long-term future at Old Trafford as the academy star is proving his worth again after struggling against Southampton in December.

The 19-year-old centre-back took advantage of the injury crisis in the first team earlier in the season to make his debut as a starter during the 2-1 victory over West Ham.

But during the match at St Mary's Stadium in December, United manager Louis van Gaal replaced him after only 39 minutes as the defender was struggling to contain both Shane Long and Graziano Pelle.

McNair has since started two further Premier League games, against Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, but on Monday 26 January, he lead the Under-21 side to a 2-1 victory over Liverpool.

Neville believes the youngster will have a bright future at United and is a candidate to solve Van Gaal's problems of forging a solid backline.

"He's a good footballer," said Neville to Sky Sports. "Louis van Gaal has thrust him into the first team. He came to Man Utd as a No 10, he's learning so much, and you expect so much of them when they go in the first team.

"He had a couple of unfortunate experiences, away at Southampton when he was substituted on Monday Night Football, but he's come back from that and you can see tonight he looks a real good player."

While goalkeeper Victor Valdes made his official debut for the club at Leigh Sports Village since signing on a free transfer this January, the 19-year-old star made an impressive appearance, playing both in his regular position in the back line as well in a holding role after half-time.

Liverpool's Jerome Sinclair cancelled Nick Powell's strike in the first half but McNair appeared just on time in the 47th minute to net the winner for his side with a good finish.

"That finish, a striker would have been proud of that," the former United right-back said to Sky Sports.

"He was good in the first half, good on the ball in the second and actually when he went into midfield and played in the holding role, he showed he could play there too."