Friday 9 October 2015

United in pride on historic night for Northern Ireland

United might have sparked controversy by pulling out of this year's Milk Cup but the club should feel mightily proud about Northern Ireland's qualification for the 2016 European Championship.

In Paddy McNair, Craig Cathcart, Corry Evans and Oliver Norwood, there were four United academy graduates in the Northern Ireland line-up on a historic night at Windsor Park.

Michael O'Neill's side won 3-1 against Greece in Belfast to secure their place at a major finals for the first time since 1986, back when Norman Whiteside was a 21-year-old regular for both United and his country.

McNair, who signed a new United contract earlier this year, started in place of another former United youth player Jonny Evans - now of WBA - in the victory over the Greeks.

Watford defender Cathcart, Blackburn midfielder Evans and Reading's Norwood never featured for the United senior side, although Cathcart and Evans were named as substitutes for the first team and Norwood travelled as cover to Wolfsburg in the Champions League win in December 2009.

The four may not have ever actually played for the senior team, but they all started their careers at Old Trafford, careers that last night reached the pinnacle as they and their team mates made history for their tiny nation. 

Another United academy graduate, James Chester, could join his former colleagues in France next summer with Wales, who are expected to seal qualification this weekend when they face Bosnia and Herzegovina and Andorra. 

Chester joined Evans at the Hawthorns in the summer for £8 million and made one senior appearance under Sir Alex, in a 2009 League Cup semi-final win over Derby County. 

A historic, momentous occasion for a country in which United have a huge following, and for four of our former players, the chance to mix it with the best in France as their country play in a major tournament finals for the first time in 30 years. 

McNair, Evans, Cathcart and Norwood enjoyed a night to remember 

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