MICHAEL O’Neill believes Sunderland and Middlesbrough-linked Ethan Galbraith can raise his level after leaving Manchester United as a free agent this summer.

The 22-year-old midfielder is hoping he can this week add to his two Northern Ireland caps – he earned the last of them back in 2020 – after being called into O’Neill’s squad for Euro 2024 qualifiers away to Denmark and at home to Kazakhstan despite his uncertain club future.

Galbraith made only one senior appearance in six years with United, featuring in the Europa League in 2019 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but has no shortage of potential suitors after impressing during loan spells at Doncaster and Salford in the past two seasons.

The midfielder excelled at Salford last term, where he made 32 appearances, and turned heads at clubs at a higher level.

Sunderland and Boro are both thought to be keen on Galbraith, as are several other Championship clubs, with O'Neill revealing that he's received "a number of phone calls" asking after the midfielder. O'Neill says it's now up to Galbraith to choose a team where he can establish himself after his impressive Salford spell.

“He’s now in the next phase of his career, when you maybe see the best of a player in his career when he’s not a loan player,” O’Neill said.

“He’s spent the last two years as a loan player, initially at Doncaster and then Salford. But now I suppose in a way, the safety net of Manchester United is pulled away.

“I know that from dealing with loan players at Stoke and sometimes you get the best version of a player in that situation.

“I think Ethan knows that, we’ve had a conversation about that. What’s important for Ethan is what he chooses to do next but what he’s shown us in the last few weeks is that his appetite for the game is there, he’s a quality player and he’s demonstrated his quality on the ball.

“He just needs to find the right club with the right manager to get the best out of him.”


Galbraith joined Manchester United from Northern Irish side Linfield in 2017 and signed his first professional contract the following year.

Galbraith is joined by Boro and Sunderland players in the Northern Ireland camp, with Paddy McNair and Trai Hume - who last week signed a new deal with the Black Cats - both in O'Neill's squad.

The first game of Northern Ireland's Euro 2024 qualifying double header is away at Denmark on Friday night before playing Kazakhstan at Windsor Park on Monday.

O'Neill is again without several regulars through injury. Jonny Evans has returned but Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Liam Boyce, Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Shane Ferguson remain sidelined, with O’Neill once again relying on youth to keep qualification hopes alive.