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Scott McTominay is looking to make himself known as a Manchester United player rising to the challenge

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay has relished 2017 as the year he broke through in the first team at the club. The 20-year-old, who turns 21 on Friday made his debut away to Arsenal last season, a match United lost 2-0. Since that performance, the player had made a handful of appearances in the first team including a UEFA Champions League debut, also signing a new contract at the Theatre of Dreams.

McTominay made an appearance, from the bench, in the 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday night, helping see his side into the knockout stages of the elite European competition next year. Speaking to the official Manchester United matchday programme, United Review and reported by the official Manchester United website, the player spoke about his ambitions for the remainder of the season, and the rest of his career. Starting with the current season, McTominay said:

“Personally, it’s been a very good start to the season. I’ve featured in a number of games and that’s been pleasing and I want to push on. When you first come into the first-team group, you strive for game time and I’ve been getting little bits step by step and it only helps you to improve.”

McTominay then spoke about his new contract which was signed on the 20th October, keeping him at the Theatre of Dreams until the end of June 2021 with the option of a further year to be added on, the player said:

“My family were really proud and it was a big occasion for me, I was really happy to commit my long-term future to the club. But that’s finished now and I want to focus on working hard every day and push for more the game time. I want to improve and hopefully be a long-term project for this football club.”

The midfielder then spoke about his United debut against Arsenal at the end of last season and what he hoped to achieve by the end of the current season. The player has obviously impressed Jose Mourinho in the short time the Portuguese manager has been in charge of the club, which is funny as he does not trust youth, apparently. McTominay said:

“I’ve always set myself goals and have always been quite an ambitious person when it comes to football. You’re not always sure what to expect at the start of the season and where you might be, but you have to take that in your stride. Things have moved on and I’ve come into the first-team group which has been great. And I want to stay in this group. The game time is very important for me and that’s what really improves you as a footballer and takes you that next level.”

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McTominay then went into details about what he has learned at the Old Trafford club in his time where he had suffered injuries, a growth spurt and a rise in to the first team. Speaking about what he has learned at the club, the player said:

“Just everything. There isn’t an individual thing or moment because you pick up so many things and learn from different things the manager might say. You really have to be switched on because the tactical side of the game is so important. I’m beginning to learn that now.”

For McTominay to go from the U18’s, into the U23’s was a big deal for the player, especially with the injuries he has suffered, not to mention the fact he has grown a lot in the last 18 months will be something that keeps the player fighting for his place. Then to rise through the ranks into the first team will be something very rewarding for the player. United have always had a youth presence in the squad, something which has lasted over 80 years. McTominay, speaking about his Champions League debut and the difference between elite European football and club football, said:

“Obviously, you’re playing against foreign players and we’ve experienced that in the UEFA Youth League. There is a lot of focus on tactics so you have to be really switched on to that. Playing in the Youth League matches has really helped me. You’re up against some of the best footballers in Europe. Experiencing it is the key thing, it’s okay watching but you have to be streetwise and experience it for yourself on the pitch. The guys who are playing it in this year in the Under-19s can only learn good things from it.”

McTominay, after making his debut in the Champions League away to Benfica, played 90 minutes in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford three weeks later. On that appearance and performance, the player said:

“Obviously, whenever you get told you’re going to play in a game like that you have to be ready. You’ve trained your whole life for those games and you want more and more of those experiences. I felt ready and individually and collectively I thought we played really well and that was really pleasing.”

On making his debut in the Champions League, then playing his first full match in the competition, McTominay played alongside summer signing Nemanja Matic, a player he would have learned a lot from in his short time on the pitch with the Serbian. Matic described McTominay as the “future of Old Trafford” after that game, with McTominay responding to that praise by saying:

“He’s great. Off the pitch, he’s really supportive and he makes a big fuss of you when he sees you! [Smiles] And, on the pitch, he’s always speaking to you as well. As a young player, to have someone so senior looking out for you it gives you a big lift. During the game, I tried to emulate what he did and be a bit of a shield [for the defence] and I thought we did well in the game and controlled the tempo. The whole experience was great.”

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McTominay then spoke about Paul Pogba, a player he has seen come through the ranks at United, despite his four-year absence with Juventus with the Old Trafford club spending a then world record £89 million to bring the player back to the Theatre of Dreams, along with a lot of criticism and suggestion the player is nothing special after his first season back at the club, earning the plaudits in his second season for the impact in matches and what he has achieved at the club. McTominay, possibly using this as inspiration to succeed himself, said:

“He’s exactly that – an inspiration. That’s the level you want to aspire to and you only get to that level by watching players like Paul and putting it into practice. He’s one of the most mentally strong guys I’ve ever met and that shows on the pitch. No matter if things might be going against the team everyone is always positive and keeps going and Paul is a big part of that which is testament to his character.”

McTominay has received a lot of praise from Jose Mourinho in the past six to eight months, something which will inspire the player to dig deep and give everything he can to the club. When Mourinho was announced as the manager to succeed Louis van Gaal at the end of the 2015/16 season, the youth at the club may have felt the reports of the Portuguese manager not trusting youth would be the beginning of the end for them at the club, which has not been the case. Speaking of the praise received, McTominay said:

“It’s really pleasing to hear from my point of view. That’s what you want, you want to impress your manager, the coaching staff, your team-mates and the fans. The history of this club is about bringing young players through and the manager has given us a chance. You see that with Marcus [Rashford] and Jesse [Lingard] and what they’re doing is unbelievable. I want to emulate that and hopefully more and more young players continue to come through.”

With the festive period nearing and the season becoming congested with fixtures, United having to play seven more times before the end of the month, McTominay will be seeking to keep himself on the radar of the manager, especially with the fact Paul Pogba will miss the next three domestic fixtures; Manchester City (H), Bournemouth (H), and West Bromwich Albion (A), McTominay will fee he has something to offer to the team and the manager and will be waiting for the chance to continue to impress the manager. The player concluded by saying:

“Yes, I hope so. The Christmas period is always a very busy schedule and that’s where you need your big squad and to have different players able to come in. I know I need to be patient but I’m working hard to be ready for whenever the manager needs me. We’re fighting on all fronts and we want to go as far as we can in every competition. We’re Man United, we want to win everything.”

United will first be seeking to beat Manchester City, using the defeat away to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League as inspiration as that ended their 28-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which could, by Sunday evening, be extended to two defeats in a row with United cutting the eight-point deficit in the Premier League down to five points, which could be the start of City’s downfall after becoming too cocky this season. A team who continues to win will soon fall foul of a defeat, another one coming on Sunday will be much welcome by the Old Trafford faithful.

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