Manchester United was (again) in need of inspiration during their clash with Derby County in the Premier League 2, and the man to provide it was midfielder Scott McTominay, scoring a brace to enhance his already rising reputation Also rising is his incredible story- the way his height has changed over the last two years. McTominay, just 18 months ago, was 5’6, and his rise to 6’2 saw him change from diminutive to statured.
McTominay remembers feeling that he just wasn’t ready at all, and credits coaches Warren Joyce and Paul McGuinness for doing a lot of work with him off the pitch. He didn’t get much game time, for what he believes was a good reason, and he wants to continue growing both in football and in height, as his skyrocketing abilities in both seem to surprise even him.
“It’s just more of the fact that my body was not ready at all. Warren and Paul McGuinness were really good with me at that time, nurturing me and putting me in and out of training sessions while not giving me so much game time. I’m at the height I am now and I want to keep going this season and get as much game time as I possibly can. I always knew I was going to be quite tall but maybe not that tall!”
The now big-man in midfield seems keen to repay the faith placed in him by Joyce and McGuinness (who is no longer at United) because he feels he wouldn’t have been persisted with at any other club. Now, at 19, United’s youth coaches, past and present, are beginning to reap the rewards they deserve for placing faith in McTominay despite an obvious struggle for height and consistent injury problems.
“I think when I was 13 or 14, if I was at another club who weren’t as patient with me as I was smaller and not playing games, I think they might have thought: ‘We’ll just get rid of him’. I couldn’t fault United when I was growing up and how they treated me. How it’s panned out has obviously been really good.
“It was such a tough period, I would say 18 months but it’s probably even longer than that. It was a long time I missed and it is tough getting yourself back up to where everyone else is. But that’s just the attitude you need to have.”
McTominay believes his growth in height is the best thing that has ever happened to him in terms of football because he is now able to physically compete with the players around him in a way he didn’t before. He also doesn’t take it for granted, though, doing a lot of work in the gym and understanding just how lucky he is to be blessed with great physicality and wanting that element of his game to be even more enhanced than it already is.
“I think that’s the best thing that has ever happened with me. Obviously, I like the height I am at now and missing that time allowed me to go to the gym to get much stronger. I notice that on the pitch now.
“I was always getting brushed aside by other boys but now I can really compete with them. It might not have been good for me to play for my whole body in general but I’ve got the attitude I want to get stronger, quicker and more powerful.
“I am relentless in the gym, doing the power work, and it’s one of the most important things for me. Having been brought up always being small and getting pushed off the ball, now I realize it doesn’t happen much now because I’m a little bit stronger and am competing with these guys.
“We go into the gym every day. A lot of it is leg-based but I work on my upper body and a lot of core. All the boys are dead competitive in the gym and want to be the best. When you’re at Manchester United, you can’t settle for anything less.”
Speaking about his potential, Joyce highlighted McTominay’s strengths and stated that he believes the 19-year-old could become a fully fledged box-to-box midfielder in the future.
“Scott has just burst onto the scene and did well last season. He could be a proper box-to-box aggressive midfielder and we need to be mindful of that. He’s a really good footballer, technically sound with good skills and excellent in the keep-ball sessions.”
The likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, currently in the first team, also struggled immensely with stature and physical threat when they were in the under-18s. Their rise to prominence of late was a source of inspiration for McTominay, who undoubtedly had to have doubts at some point in time. Speaking about the matter, McTominay had a bit of a throwback to when he and Rashford struggled together.
“That was an inspiration for me. It just shows how far you can actually come. A lot of people may have written Jesse off when he was a lot younger and smaller and thought he might not be capable of playing at the top-level but look at him now, he’s done it.
“Marcus Rashford is another prime example. Marcus and I were in the Under-16s and we used to do 45 minutes each. We both weren’t capable of playing the full game. That was in the no.10 role and we’ve both moved positions; he’s gone up front and I’ve dropped back into midfield.”
With midfield options such as Michael Carrick, in the twilight of his career, and Marouane Fellaini, who simply doesn’t fit in, one would hope McTominay can eventually make an impact in the first team. If he continues to perform the way he did against Derby, it’s only a matter of time before he gets that chance..