Thursday, 5 December 2019

Scott McTominay: From ridiculed outcast to midfield maestro

When Scott McTominay made his first tentative steps in first team Red at Manchester United, only Jose Mourinho seemed convinced.

McTominay was a limited player and was only anywhere near the team because of his manager's penchant for anyone over 6ft. A homegrown product from the Academy, McTominay's roots as one of our own was the perfect tick box exercise for Mourinho. He was a symbol of the manager's perceived bias and the
epitome of United's post Sir-Alex Ferguson nosedive.

When Mourinho presented McTominay with his own end of season award, the ridicule was far reaching and widely received. He went out of his way to single him out for his unwavering commitment and exemplary attitude. Mourinho may have got a fair bit wrong during his two and a half years at United but I think he got it right when it comes to McTominay. If there's one thing fans love, it's showing fight for the shirt and passion for the badge.

It was a delicious irony, therefore, that the downfall of the self proclaimed Special One on his return to his former stamping ground was orchestrated by the string pulling exploits of the 22-year old Lancaster born Scot.

The last time United played well was against Brighton three weeks ago. Three very average performances and results without him were followed up by a statement win over Mourinho's previously unbeaten Tottenham on Wednesday. The common denominator? The man we all know affectionately as McSauce. When he limped from the field against the Seagulls, collective hearts sank. We had no one to come in for him and United certainly suffered in his absence. It surely can't be a co-incidence that his first game back was our best performance of the season.

McTominay, the McTominator, McSauce, has proved far more indispensable to us than his more illustrious colleague Paul Pogba.  Now the loss of Pogba is not as keenly felt. Supporters do not pour out of Old Trafford ruing Pogba's prolonged lay-off for they have become apathetic to his variable form that ranges from feckless to phenomenal. United undeniably missed McTominay against Sheffield United and Aston Villa. He is the epitome of this side and was a driving force from the off against Spurs. Alongside him, Fred had arguably his best game in a United shirt. The Brazilian looked far more at ease with himself with McTominay next to him than he does when alongside his compatriot Andreas Pereira. 

McTominay is the epitome of this side - a totemic mixture of grit and guile, linking the play, driving forward, tracking back, winning tackles, and he never stops running. Any arguments against his status as a favourite and the first name on the team sheet is given the treatment. He loves riling up opponents, he loves a tackle and his tenacity and temerity belies his tender years. 

There was nothing to suggest that he would ever be good enough for this club - but just as a growth spurt catapulted him into contention, McTominay has risen from an awkward, ridiculed outcast to a player who is indispensable to the cause. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he's only continued to grow as our midfield enforcer and as a leader.
Marcus Rashford may have rightly earned the man of the match award against Spurs for an almost unplayable performance, but McSauce wasn't far behind. Noticeably purposeful with his passing, he rarely wastes possession and was always looking to get us on the front foot. 65% of his passes went forward and there are shades of Michael Carrick about him. He's almost undroppable now.

You get the feeling that he sees the small yellow crest on his left pectoral muscle as a genuine honour. He's rather die for it than lose a game of football. As Tony Adams once said: "Play for the badge on the front and they will remember the name on the back."

Solskjaer could not have worded it better at full-time when saying Scott McTominay was the type of player he wants at Manchester United: Commitment, heart, dedication, fight, grit and quality. Is it any wonder he is being earmarked as a future captain of the club? 

Much like that growth spurt at 18, few could have predicted the meteoric rise of a player who was seen as nothing more than a Mourinho yes man. 

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