|Photo Source: Manchester United|
If you had asked fans that question in December, the vast majority of the Manchester United faithful would have said absolutely not. The popular vote was to offload the Scottish midfielder in the summer, be it on loan or on a permanent transfer. Either way, nobody saw a future in red for Scott McTominay.
Fast forward a few months and the opinions may be a little different today.
With the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the interim manager and an outbreak of injuries, Scott McTominay was handed a lifeline to perhaps save his Manchester United career.
It was inevitable that he was going to get chances as the games were coming thick and fast, and they were all very meaningful to United’s season.
McTominay has already been a part of some big games for United in his 26 first team appearances, including the memorable win against Liverpool last season.
The issue with McTominay that resulted in criticism was due to him being assigned defensive duties and thus being under appreciated in a team that adopts defensive styles of play, like the United under Mourinho. In those teams, McTominay was often playing alongside Matic, who is predominantly a deep sitting defensive midfielder and as a result, the fans expected the Scotsman to produce magic going forward. But as we recently found out, that is not quite Scott’s forte. Or at least so it would seem.
But even then, United fans are known to have a weakness for academy products coming through. It’s rooted deep into the identity of this football club and so, the outpouring of criticism that fell on McTominay every time he made an appearance for United was a tad surprising to say the least.
Fair enough, he is not the cutest of footballers. He’s no young phenomena forward like Mason Greenwood or a creative midfield magician like Angel Gomes or Tahith Chong, but he is one of our own, and a lot of his performances in a United shirt have gone largely underappreciated.
McTominay’s chance under Ole eventually came when Matic went down with an injury, and he was asked to slot into that deep position just in front of the back four which he has looked right at home in.
He has been dominant in the air and winning the ball back while not giving it away. It is a very dirty role to play as there are not a lot of opportunities to play pretty and receive plaudits. You just have to defend, run your socks off and play the simple ball every time.
The difference for Scott this time around is that in the offensive style of play that United have returned to under Ole, the man who is constantly disrupting the opposition and winning the ball back for a team that wants to go forward gets a lot more credit.
This has very much been the case with McTominay in recent weeks as he has received a lot of praise for his defensive performances against Crystal Palace and PSG. It’s safe to say that he has changed the opinions of many fans, especially with the way he celebrated every goal that United scored over those two games like he was the one putting them in, in pure academy graduate fashion.
The roars of emotion on display after the PSG win also really showed just how much it means for a boy who has been at the club since the age of five to be able to pull on the famous United shirt.
The big question that arises now after those impressive showings is does the 22-year-old midfielder have a future at Manchester United?
Having just signed a contract extension in January to keep him at the club until 2023, it seems like Ole thinks so. And I believe that he does too.
Although it may not be as a regular starter, he has shown on several occasions now that United can count on him and that he is willing to help the team in any capacity that is required of him. From featuring as a central defender to playing in more advanced roles, the one thing that you cannot take away from Scott McTominay is that he’s always given it 110% for the badge.
In recent weeks, he has shown the role that he might be the most valuable in for United and Scotland, and he certainly has the physical attributes and ability to make that deep sitting defensive midfielder position his own for club and country for years to come.
He has shown glimpses of a younger, more athletic version of Nemanja Matic, and if under the tutelage of Michael Carrick he can develop into half of the defensive player that the Serbian is, then United will have a very capable central defensive midfielder for the next decade.