Last months Ireland squad was perhaps one of Stephen Kenny’s best ever available to him, meaning it was inevitable a couple of old reliables were likely to miss out. Ryan Manning was perhaps the most notable.
Robbie Brady’s return to game time and unprecedented form at Preston propelled him back into Kenny’s plans as the Nations League concluded. His selection was justified with his late winner at home to Armenia.
However, the player to essentially miss out was Manning who is also unfortunate that James McClean’s terrific adaptation to the left wing-back slot. Manning also didn’t leave a lasting impression on Kenny after he was given a start against Lithuania in March.
Since the English season has commenced, Ireland fans have kept a key eye on Swansea with Michael Obafemi leading their line. Following the strikers scuppered move to Burnley and brief absence, Manning began to catch the attention for his attacking displays down Swansea’s left-hand side.
On Wednesday night, he got his second assist on the trot for the Swans with a 98th cross setting up a Ben Cabango winner. This added to Manning’s two goals already this season, including a classy volley against Hull City just a couple of weeks ago.
Still only 26, Manning is perhaps remembered for being the key cog for many Irish underage teams, operating in a number 10 role and expected by many to succeed Wes Hoolahan when the Dubliner retired from international duty. Manning caught the eye of the likes of Spurs as a teenager in Mervue United’s first team before Harry Redknapp tempted him to QPR in 2015.
He became a fan favourite at Loftus Road with his creative flair and was subsequently converted into a left-back. His competency behind a dead ball makes him something of an Ian Harte figure and his playing style was considered just what former Swansea boss Steve Cooper was looking for when he recruited Manning in 2020.
Having played in as a left centre-back and left wing-back under Cooper and now Russell Martin, many would have felt Stephen Kenny viewed Manning’s versatility in a 3–4–3 or 5–3–2 desirable. However, he has been limited to just 6 caps with Enda Stevens, James McClean and now Robbie Brady the men trusted during the Kenny era to operate at left wing-back.
Despite being a little further down the pecking order, with Stevens’s international career effectively over, McClean entering his twilight years and Brady without a full season in years, Manning’s current form could make Kenny reconsider.
His versatility could be a major sway and like Brady, can also operate in midfield and offers a creative left foot that is really lacking in the Ireland squad. With friendlies against Norway and Malta on the horizon and three goal involvements in his last three games, Manning will hope that his current form makes his a valued option for Kenny.