Who needs Pogba when you have McTominay!? The Manchester United academy graduate is outshining big money signings at Old Trafford… and is now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most trusted midfield lieutenant after his dazzling performance against Leeds
- Scott McTominay continues to grow in importance to Manchester United
- He is increasingly becoming a player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trusts in big matches
- The 24-year-old was excellent on Sunday as the Red Devils thumped Leeds 6-2
The last time Manchester United were able to hold fans at Old Trafford their supporters sang the name of Scott McTominay.
‘Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh Scott McTominay’ bellowed around the Theatre of Dreams after he scored their second goal in injury time to complete a 2-0 win over ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City in the Premier League last season (March 8).
The 24-year-old has been coined ‘McDominate’, ‘McTerminator’ and ‘McSauce’ by the Red Devils’ faithful. And on Sunday against bitter rivals Leeds United, he was certainly mustard.
Scott McTominay was excellent on Sunday as Manchester United thumped Leeds United 6-2
McTominay scored twice in the opening three minutes as United made a fantastic start
The last time Old Trafford was full, McTominay scored in a 2-0 win over Manchester City
The midfielder celebrates in front of a packed crowd during last season’s derby victory
McTominay was imperious as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side thumped their Yorkshire foes 6-2 at home. He set the tone with two quick-fire goals – becoming the first player in Premier League history to score twice in the first three minutes of a match – and dominated midfield as United’s victory moved them up to third in the table, with a game in hand, too.
Midfield has been a source of contention for Solskjaer due to the array of talent he has. Aside from McTominay, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Nemanja Matic and summer signing Donny van de Beek are all vying for a place in his first XI.
The Norwegian has tried various combinations in 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-1-2-1-2 or 3-4-1-2 formations – with only Fernandes a guaranteed starter in any system.
However, increasingly in the big games another name is being added to Solskjaer’s first-choice midfield: McTominay.
The Scotland international – who signed a contract extension until June 2025, with the option to extend for a further year in the summer – provides a solid base for United in midfield with his tireless ability to win the ball back, freeing his more creative team-mates in front of him. A converted striker from his youth he demonstrated his striking ability with two fine goals against Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
McTominay’s partnership with Fred – coined McFred by some – has proven a tried and trusted combination by Solskjaer. The pair work brilliantly in tandem together with their energy and defensive work allowing the likes of Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Co to wreak havoc in attack.
In June, McTominay signed a new deal at the club until 2025 with the option of a further year
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is increasingly trusting McTominay in their big matches
The 24-year-old has developed a strong midfield understanding with team-mate Fred (left)
Following his display on Sunday, United legend Gary Neville was effusive in his praise for McTominay.
‘McTominay’s turned into Paul Scholes and Roy Keane inside three minutes,’ said the Sky Sports pundit, after McTominay put United 2-0 ahead.
‘He’s driving forward, I’m not sure whether that’s in the tactics or if he just fancied it, but he’s gone and [Anthony] Martial comes inside, sees him running and he’s off. His first touch is brilliant, his second is sublime.
‘We thought United would counter-attack and attack quickly, but we didn’t think that the holding midfielder would be on the end of it. What a start.’
Later in the game, he added: ‘He (McTominay) is emerging and growing. He’s someone Ole can rely upon in the big games with Fred and Fernandes in front of them. Then Pogba, Matic and Van de Beek fit in around that.’
He is slowly joining Bruno Fernandes as a guaranteed starter in Solskjaer’s United midfield
Neville’s sentiments underline the growth McTominay has had since he made his first-team debut as a substitute in April 2017. That was under Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho in a 2-0 league defeat at Arsenal.
McTominay would go on to make one more appearance that season – starting in the season-ending 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The following campaign saw him embark on his first full season with the first-team – featuring 23 times in all competitions under Mourinho. United finished the season second and trophyless but it was one of personal joy for McTominay who won the Manager’s Player of the Season award.
Just a few months later, Mourinho was sacked. However, McTominay was full of praise for the Portuguese manager.
Reflecting on their time together, the midfielder revealed to the Times how one dressing-down from Mourinho tested his resolve – which he came through.
McTominay (centre, back) made his first start for the club at the end of the 2016-17 season
‘Jose was amazing for me,’ he told The Times in April 2019. ‘Though when I first came in Jose gave me a serious, serious b******ing.
‘I was arguing with one of the first team lads in training and he said “hey, kid, when you come into the first team, the other players – they have to like you. You’re not a superstar”, he said and I drove back to digs thinking “have I just ruined it for myself?” I couldn’t believe it.
‘I thought “I hope he knows I don’t think I’m a star, I’m the polar opposite”. He probably just wanted to see what I was made of, what sort of lad he had on his hands.
‘You’re liked by what you do on the pitch and how you are off the pitch and I feel Mourinho saw something in me at a time some people did and some people didn’t, and I’m grateful.’
Like Mourinho, Solskjaer clearly likes what McTominay does on the pitch. The Lancaster-born player demonstrated his class with an excellent display during a 1-0 Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat by Barcelona in April 2019 – just months into Solskjaer’s tenure. He then kicked on and in the Norwegian’s first full campaign (2019-20) the Scot made 37 appearances in all competitions. This season so far he has already featured 17 times.
McTominay got his break in the first team under Jose Mourinho and remains grateful to him
Despite losing 1-0 at home to Barcelona, McTominay shone during the Champions League tie
McTominay may not have the creative guile of Pogba or Van de Beek but his qualities are just as important to Solskjaer. When push comes to shove he can rely on him more times than not – something that cannot always be said about Pogba, for example.
At 24, McTominay is still developing and is yet to reach his peak. However, his maturity is evident by his post-match comments after defeating Leeds.
‘You just go on the pitch and do your job, you don’t want to get too carried away. Every game is a cup final’, he told Sky Sports.
‘Last season we weren’t approaching games in the right frame of mind, but this time we are. We’re getting used to scoring goals at home, it’s so important.
‘The confidence grows and everyone gets that boost of energy. The athleticism we showed today was second to none.
‘We don’t look at the table, there’s no time for looking. We have to take every game one by one.’
His form has kept Paul Pogba (left) and Donny van de Beek (right, middle) out of the starting XI
The one blot on Sunday’s display was the fact that McTominay was forced off late on due to a groin problem picked up.
The Red Devils have strength in depth in this position, as previously outlined, but Solskjaer will be hoping his midfield general won’t be out of action for too long.
‘He’s a physical monster,’ Solskjaer said of his No 39 on Sunday.
‘He does all his work every day, never shirks and gets his rewards with his fitness and his technical work.
Solskjaer has labelled the midfielder as a ‘physical monster’ as United look to keep improving
‘He can do everything. He used to be a striker and he showed he can be a handful in and around the box.
‘That energy and drive in a derby was crucial.’
High praise indeed from his manager. If fans were permitted into Old Trafford on Sunday, McTominay would’ve heard their love for him bellow around the stadium too.
‘Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh Scott McTominay…’
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