There were no midfield additions that arrived in the summer transfer window and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be limited with his options, but Scott McTominay could emerge as an unlikely hero to solve this problem.
The Scottish international has been at the club since 2012 and made his Manchester United debut in 2017. Since then, he’s gradually made his way up through the first team before becoming a consistent regular for United. He plays most of his football in the centre of midfield occasionally dropping deeper and sometimes even at centre half for Scotland. Being 6’4” he’s an ariel presence and can run games from the midfield. His strongest attribute is his driving runs and finishing when given the chance.
Despite being a midfielder, McTominay is remarkably accurate when shooting but rarely gets the opportunity to show this. His best performances have come when he’s been given license to move forward making bombing runs into the box either to be a decoy runner or to be a passing lane who’s slipped in with a shot on goal. However, due to the lack of security in United’s midfield he’s often not given as much freedom to roam like this and can be stuck with a more stationary role in the midfield.
McTominay’s time at the club so far has been mixed. He’s made huge progress becoming a regular first team player, but the midfield is currently the most debated and controversial spots in the team. However, since his injury, more and more people are becoming aware of McTominay’s importance to this United team as when someone plays alongside Fred the midfield becomes far more imbalanced but when McTominay is there it’s much more stable.
This season McTominay must make that central midfield spot his own as otherwise Solskjaer will likely bring in re-enforcements in the midfield areas next season. When he’s at his best often against Leeds United, he causes the opposition lots of problems as he’s tall and strong so becomes press resistant and when driving forward he’s a pain to mark as he can strike a ball and can make room for others.
McTominay is highly rated amongst some current and ex United representatives as Darren Fletcher, Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson and even Roy Keane have spoken positively about the Scot. In the 2017/18 season, Mourinho created the ‘Manager’s Player of the Year award’ at United and new boy McTominay was awarded it and pleasing Mourinho is no easy task so that is a big accomplishment. Then when a manager as prestigious as Ferguson speaks fondly of you that is also a big deal.
Last season McTominay and Fred created a consistent partnership in the midfield that Solskjaer trusted despite its issues. Twelve months later and this partnership is still Solskjaer’s go to as it’s his securest option. However, this pairing won’t last forever as there’s clear problems with it that eventually will be upgraded. To ensure his survival in this squad, McTominay has to make a huge claim this season presenting why he is of United standard.
This has been a big debate recently, as some believe he’s very underrated and is a good midfielder whereas others feel he isn’t even top six level. Often the downfall of the Fred and McTominay partnership is the simple things. At times, they can both struggle with the progression of the ball and accurate passing. Inaccurate passing at this level is unforgivable and he must ensure that he’s a reliable passer and someone who can pick the ball of the defence and transition it forward.
Despite this, he’s relatively press resistant and although Paul Pogba is a world class midfielder, he can be caught on the ball a lot whereas McTominay tends not to do this. If McTominay can perfect the simple things, mixed with improving his best attributes like his arial presence and bombing runs he could become an efficient midfielder for United.
In terms of effect McTominay’s presence varies. In some games he’s a pivotal man in the midfield whereas in other games it can pass him by. McTominay must ensure that this doesn’t happen often as Solskjaer can’t afford to have inconsistency in the midfield if he’s to take this team to titles. This season with Solskjaer’s clear distrust of Donny van de Beek and Pogba excelling off the left, McTominay’s role in the team has never been more important.
Overall, McTominay could be United’s unlikely hero as he becomes the glue the holds the United midfield together. Then if he wants to become a United great, he must learn to do the basics well and keep progressing from there. Ultimately, if McTominay can keep progressing he could become a crucial figure in United’s team hoping to bring silverware back to Old Trafford.
Written by Ethan Bents