Scott McTominay’s start last week over Paul Pogba was seen by some fans and pundits as a wake up call for the latter following a poor showing at Tottenham. Though this is a classic tactic by managers, and Pogba did make a fairly successful appearance as a substitute later on, it should not overshadow the fact that McTominay is an impressive young midfield talent who has earned more playing time.
Against Huddersfield the young midfielder impressed fans and manager alike. Jose Mourinho even went so far as to call the performance “genius.” McTominay’s continuing consistent play over the course of the season and his potential upside could convince Mourinho to cross a central midfielder off his summer shopping list. It would help his Manchester United legacy to give youth opportunities, and the success of Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard show the Academy still puts out first-team talent.
McTominay is a physical central midfielder with an eye for passing lanes, and he isn’t afraid to take a crack at goal if the opportunity is there. He has played in both defensive and attacking midfield positions, and played striker occasionally as a youth player. Standing at 6’4, the young Scot is as intimidating in stature as he is in playing style. His style definitely appears to be influenced somewhat by both Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher, but his play is still unique to his own identity.
After making his first two club appearances near the end of the 2016-17 season, McTominay appears to be a part of Mourinho’s future plans for Manchester United considering his increase in playing time for the 2017-18 campaign. He was included in the squad for United’s summer 2017 US Tour, and has impressed when given the opportunity to play. He has featured at least once in every competition so far this season, and has even made 3 Champions League appearances.
In the argument against playing McTominay more frequently is, of course, his lack of experience and tested skill. Like Rashford and Lingard before him, McTominay has yet to nail down a specialty role in the team. He is skilled at many aspects of the game, but has not had the time to develop a game-changing attribute. This was evident over the weekend at Newcastle.
In the 1-0 loss at Newcastle McTominay and Michael Carrick were brought on late to replace the struggling Pogba and Nemanja Matic, but failed to give United the control and precision in midfield they had lacked. United continued to create some chances, but conversion remained elusive. McTominay shouldn’t take the blame for this however, as it seems his future seems to be in midfield stability rather than converting chances. His calmness is rare to see in a young player, and it is better suited for a role behind the attacking line where he can add structure to the build up play. He will no doubt benefit watching and learning from Carrick and Matic in training and on the pitch.
McTominay’s future at Manchester United is by no means guaranteed, but his efforts are worthy of recognition and praise. As was the case with many others who progressed through the United youth ranks, McTominay is willing to fight for a place in the first-team and prove his worth to Mourinho. He may become the gaffer’s first major youth success.