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Scott McTominay – an unlikely hero?

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

Opinion: Manchester United’s Midfield Dilemma

The 2021/22 Premier League season has started and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make with regards to who he picks as his first-choice midfield. Since his arrival at the club, Solskjaer has tried to stick to partnerships remaining loyal to his primary midfielders. Due to Bruno Fernandes’ remarkable impact, his spot in the team has always been guaranteed thus leaving Solskjaer only two spots to figure out. In Solskjaer’s preferred 4-2-3-1, he’s often used Scott McTominay and Fred as his midfield pivot to ensure stability at the back.

This can be viewed as quite defensive, but it does provide that cover for the back four especially when he sees the partnership of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire as unreliable. With the addition of Raphael Varane, this may change the dynamic at United as Solskjaer will feel that his new centre half partnership is assured and thus he can adapt to a more offensive approach rather than two more defensive minded players. Therefore, Solskjaer has a big decision to make on whether to play more freely but leaving the defence more vulnerable or sticking to a more stable but offensively hindered duo. The four midfield partnerships he could choose are:

Scott McTominay and Fred

Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba

Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic

Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay/Fred

Firstly, McTominay and Fred. This is the pivot we’ve seen the most of as a pairing and thus know what to expect. They bring high work rate always willing to run for the badge and won’t give in when it gets tough. Defensively, they are solid and can cover the back four well seen especially in games against Manchester City where United had to defend for much of the game due to City’s expert ball retention ability but held them out before swiftly hitting them on the counter-attack. McTominay’s height and aggression brings a real ariel presence and can help to win the midfield battle due to his tough tackling and determination to win the ball.

Fred carries a phenomenal engine throughout and never stops pressing and hassling the opposition. However, what this duo lack is technical ability, especially offensively. As a duo they are two separate players doing one mans job; neither player is a specialist defensive midfielder, but Solskjaer has often felt to get the job done you need both. Furthermore, a major weakness of their game is ball progression. A key role in the defensive midfield position is the transition of the ball; they must be able to pick the ball up off the centre half’s and then move it forward with speed.

McTominay and Fred struggle to do this due to their weak first touch, passing and progressive dribbling. Thus, when paired together, the ball is often held around the midfield for far too long taking multiple touches to find a simple pass. This completely slows United’s attacking flow as by the time the ball reaches the final third the opposition’s defence is well organised. Furthermore, because of their weak passing, it can limit how well the ball is progressed often resulting in the forwards dropping deeper and deeper to receive the ball which destroys all attacking shape and make it easier for the oppositions defence.

Therefore, as a duo they bring stability, but due to their weakness on the ball can give possession away which makes it easier for the opposition to dictate the games.

The next partnership is Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba. This partnership was most used post lockdown last year and was highly effective at the time. Its biggest strength is balance, Unlike McTominay and Fred there is balance between a natural defensive midfielder in Matic and then a more creative player in Pogba. This means despite not having two players to cover, the defence is stable as due to Matic’s elite positioning, awareness and ability to intercept he can shield the back four on his own. This then leaves Pogba more license to get forward and with his passing range and strong ball progression abilities, transitioning the ball becomes far easier and more effective.

Matic picks the ball up off the defenders, quickly passing it to Pogba who in turn, can find a 40-yard pass if necessary or make a defence splitting pass through the midfield into the final third for the attackers. This creates a smooth flow and speed to United’s game which is much harder for the opposition to defend. However, one major weakness is energy. Unlike McTominay and Fred in which you’re guaranteed tenacity and energy, with Pogba and Matic this isn’t the case. With Matic’s lack of speed he makes up for it with defensive positioning, but if the opposition team attempt to swamp the midfield it can leave Matic slightly vulnerable.

In addition, Pogba isn’t renowned for his defensive abilities and can be susceptible to not tracking back which would expose Matic even more. Furthermore, as a player Pogba can be clumsy when defending, and has a knack for giving penalties away. This as a trait for a player who is expected to track back and provide cover in the box is a weakness. Therefore, in high energy games this duo can be slightly vulnerable and become a liability but their high quality on the ball means often even against imposing midfields they can retain the ball well keeping a real control on the game and thus not being put into these issues.

Thirdly, there’s the partnership of Matic and Donny van de Beek. This is a relatively untested duo which has emerged in pre-season due to the lack of internationals fit after the Euros. This duo is highly intelligent and would always be one step ahead of the oppositional team. With Van de Beek’s awareness he can play himself out of trouble and prevent United from losing the ball. He like Matic has a good passing range on him, with a real ability to play cute one-twos with teammates making space for others. This will help United’s transition of the ball because both midfielders can pass well and are very comfortable with the ball at feet and can transition it smoothly.

Defensively, although not particularly tall, Van de Beek has good tenacity and can put a tackle in to turnover possession for his side. Furthermore, with Matic next to him it provides the necessary freedom to let him roam forward. Also, Van de Beek is a more energetic player than Pogba and so won’t let himself get ran out of the game. However, he’s not got such a brilliant passing range so can’t create a chance out of nothing like Pogba. Finally, the midfield with Pogba and Fred or McTominay. On paper if you mix Pogba’s attacking output and combine it with Fred’s or McTominay’s defensive work it would create a strong midfield but in reality, it’s the opposite.

Individually, Fred and Mctominay don’t have a strong enough footballing brain especially defensively to properly shield the back four. They can’t read the game like Matic and so United would miss that player who can put in a crucial interception to save a goal scoring opportunity. Furthermore, as Pogba isn’t the strongest defensively, a natural defensive midfielder is necessary and neither Fred nor McTominay provide this. However, as a midfield, due to Mctominay or Fred’s athleticism and stamina, the midfield wouldn’t get outworked and there would be enough speed in there which can be lacking with Matic.

Overall, I feel that despite issues with each pivot, he should use them all. Although previously he’s liked to have one partnership he sticks to, I feel different players will be more effective against different opponents. Against Leeds United due to the impeccable fitness standards Marcelo Bielsa inflicts on his men, Solskjaer used a more energetic duo like McTominay and Fred. But, in the future, against more defensive teams, Solskjaer should look to utilise players like Donny van de Beek and his intricate and clever play style to break down deep blocks.

However, if Solskjaer is to stick to one midfield I think he should, when possible, pick Matic and then either Pogba or Van de Beek as his partner. Last season Pogba played multiple games off the left due to Solskjaer insistence on using Mctominay and Fred and so with Rashford’s injury he may look to move Pogba back to the left and use Van de Beek and Matic as the midfield pivot to maximise creativity.

In Conclusion, I hope that although McTominay and Fred have their qualities, they are used more sparingly, and he goes with a more offensive approach this season as United with the signings of Varane and Jadon Sancho have the quality to dictate games, dominating oppositions and ultimately bring trophies back to Old Trafford.

Written by Ethan Bents

Defensive Midfielder: The Key to Bringing Success Back to Old Trafford?

The most important position on a football pitch is highly debatable, some say goalkeeper, others will say in the modern game its fullbacks, whereas I feel the most important position in the team is defensive midfielder. A defensive midfielder acts as a shield to the defence, intercepting counter attacks and trying to provide stability to the midfield. Without a defensive midfielder, often midfields can be imbalanced leaving their defences exposed or on the contrary too heavily covered and thus restricting the creativity in the team.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been heavily criticised for his preference of Scott McTominay and Fred in a double pivot in the midfield. This is seen by many as too defensive, which hinders the teams attacking output. This is as a result of the movement of the passing. The key to a good midfield is the ability to pick the ball off the defence and transition it quickly into the final third for the forwards to attack.

The criticism of McTominay and Fred is both of them are not naturally gifted at passing nor ball control thus when they transition the ball its often too slow as they take many touches and pass side to side as they aren’t comfortable passing forward with great intent. This was seen in the Liverpool vs United game in the backend of last season in May when United lost to their bitter rivals 4-2. Liverpool traditionally under Klopp play with a high press attempting to put the oppositional team under pressure and win back possession high up the field leaving the defence vulnerable and open to chances.

Liverpool used this gameplan and to great effect as they pressed United high and in the title of the Manchester Evening News article for the player ratings, stated; “Fred and Scott McTominay Terrible.” The pair in midfield gave the ball away countless times which inevitably led to Liverpool’s goals. Often, their weak passing can be hidden due to teams sitting off, but when United are pressed their weaknesses become very evident. Furthermore, this although not as prominent an issue but still a weakness is a concern for United when playing teams like Burnley who try sit in and make it difficult.

The lack of creativity in the midfield when using Fred and McTominay means breaking down these resilient teams can be a nightmare. Therefore, the use of Fred and McTominay when playing the weaker teams has become a major criticism of Solskjaer’s from the fans. As a result of Solskjaer’s preference for Mctominay and Fred, this has forced Paul Pogba onto the left wing where he arguably isn’t as effective. This debate is of the essence right now due to Pogba’s phenomenal performances for France in Euro 2020.

Despite being knocked out, Pogba was one of the best players at the tournament playing as a midfielder for France rather then out on the wing. His defence splitting passes, strong tackling and boisterous power in the midfield has led fans to demand Solskjaer moves Pogba back into his ‘best position’ for the start of the 2021/22 season. With the arrival of Jadon Sancho from Dortmund as an exciting winger, this could force Solskjaer to play Pogba in midfield as he’s likely to start Rashford on the left, Sancho on the right and Martial through the middle. 

The effect of a Defensive Midfielder for Manchester United

As seen with France, Pogba looks far more comfortable with a natural defensive midfielder next to him and so with Solskjaer potentially looking at a midfielder in the summer transfer window, the freeing up of Pogba could finally happen. Pogba’s best form recently came when he played next to a natural defensive midfielder in Matic. Matic covered the defence giving Pogba license to go forward. Matic is now 32 turning 33 in August and so is no longer fit enough to play two to three games a week leaving United without a first-choice defensive midfielder.

The emergence of James Garner could solve this in the future but for now United need a world class defensive midfielder to dictate games. For the summer transfer window, I feel this should be our biggest priority as with a good defensive midfielder we will be able to transition the ball far better giving the ball to our more attacking players like Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani quicker so they have more space to attack and exploit the defence.

As mentioned, it will mean Pogba can go forward with more freedom and most importantly if possession is lost there will be a player who can read the play and anticipate and intercept the oncoming attack, and therefore avoid any counterattacks going right through the midfield leaving the defence exposed. Therefore, this would let United dictate and control more games which United have struggled with in recent years letting winnable games slip by to late equalisers like against Everton last season and Southampton post-lockdown.

In addition, all the best teams in the world have a world class defensive midfielder; Manchester City have Fernandinho, Liverpool have Fabinho, Bayern have Joshua Kimmich and Real Madrid have Casemiro. In the last couple months, we’ve seen Fabinho be moved to centre half to deal with their injury issues. Immediately, Liverpool’s defence looked so much weaker as they didn’t have a defensive midfielder Infront of them to shield leaving them incredibly vulnerable.

Furthermore, in the Champions League final, Guardiola tried a midfield without a defensive midfielder. Chelsea used this to their advantage and carved right through City’s defence, and their ‘world class’ defensive partnership of Rúben Dias and John Stones looked completely lost and weak. Therefore, this shows that when these great teams no matter how good they are play without a defensive midfielder they look that much worse. So, if United had a proper defensive midfielder I feel United would improve astronomically and could be the difference between getting to finals and winning titles. 

The main name many fans want is Declan Rice, but some other options include Wilfred Ndidi and Manuel Locatelli. Declan Rice has been an impressive midfielder in West Hams resurgence in the 2020/21 season which has led his value to being of an absurd £80 million due to him being an English midfielder playing in the Premier League. This has led to many feeling that United should avoid Rice as paying £80 million is overpriced. Ndidi is a Nigerian midfielder playing for Leicester. He has good strength and brilliant tackling. These attributes could create great stability in the United midfield but the main issue is price.

Leicester City has an incredibly efficient transfer system meaning they buy for cheap and sell for very high. In the 2019 summer transfer market, United were forced to pay a huge upfront fee of £80 million for Maguire from Leicester. Therefore, Ndidi would cost around a similar fee which in a covid market isn’t realistic. Locatelli who has shone for Italy in the Euros is 23 years old playing for Sassuolo in Serie A. He’s got an eye for goal, as well as great passing ability and tackling which would enable him to progress the ball very well and put some crucial tackles in. His price would be around the region of £30-40 million.

However, Locatelli looks likely to go to Juventus so therefore, United should make a move for Eduardo Camavinga who is an 18-year-old French midfielder playing in the French league for Rennes. He’s highly rated with a special future and would probably cost around £50 million. This may seem extensive for someone so young, but his high ability at 18 means he could be moulded into a world class defensive midfielder in future creating a good relationship with Paul Pogba.

In Conclusion, I feel United must go all out to get a defensive midfielder this summer as a proper defensive midfielder could take United to the next level and bring trophies back to Old Trafford with Camavinga being my first choice if Locatelli goes to Juventus.

Written by Ethan Bents

Scott McTominay set for new role at Manchester United?

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, 23, could be set for a new role at the Old Trafford club following the arrival of both Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek this year. The two attacking midfielders will most likely see the 23-year-old find his feet in a new midfield role which is likely to be a defensive midfield role. United recently rewarded Nemanja Matic, 32, with a new contract at the club, which will probably be his last at United before retirement. The Serbian has already retired from international football this summer.

The Athletic has reported that United have a hole in the defensive area of the midfield with just Matic as the defensive minded midfielder also citing that the clubs failed pursuit of Jude Bellingham is also reason for McTominay being put into his new role at the club. The 23-year-old has played a defensive role at the club in his breakthrough season under Jose Mourinho but will probably need some assistance to find his feet in the position, which is where Matic could come in.

Matic, 32, is not going to be an option for every match but could offer something coming off the bench, or starting in the bigger matches with McTominay playing other matches with him more able to recover between matches with United set to play out the full 2020/21 season in a shorter period of time, playing in the Premier League, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and the Emirates FA Cup. It is something that could work well for United, if McTominay finds his feet in the new position.

Matic would be seen as the ideal mentor for McTominay which could see him thrive in the position. He is a physical player and during the 2019/20 season, especially when Paul Pogba was injured before the end of 2019, showed what he could do for his club and got stuck into various midfield roles, playing alongside Matic and Fred in the centre of midfield. Since Fernandes has arrived though, McTominay has more often been a substitute, playing in the advanced areas but not doing all that well.

Throughout the course of the 2019/20 season, McTominay made a total of 37 appearances for United, scoring five goals and one assist. His best goal came against Manchester City, scoring a late long-distance goal to secure the three points for United in what was the last match to be played at the Theatre of Dreams with supporters present in the stadium. It was a great goal that secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side the Premier League double over City, which shows the direction the club has been heading in under the Norwegian manager, despite the negativity from Twitter fans.

McTominay signed a new contract at United this summer, which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2025, with the option of a further year to be added. This shows that United have a future for the player and he will be an asset in the years to come once he finds his feet in his new position. The 23-year-old has played 23 times in the 2019/20 season in the central midfield position, playing 11 times in the defensive midfield position – the other appearances playing in advanced areas on the pitch. This shows that he could be moulded into the heir to Matic with the Serbian helping him find his feet, which would be good for him.

Written by John Walker

Dimitar Berbatov feels this midfielder needs to put in extra effort moving forward

Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has stated that midfielder Scott McTominay needs to put in the extra effort if he is to force his way back into the clubs starting XI. At times this season, McTominay has been a true professional and in a period that saw Paul Pogba out of action for much of the season, was playing a lot of football. However, since the restart, the form McTominay had has gone. Criticism is something that will always be part of the game and can be warranted.

At the end of December 2019, McTominay suffered from a knee injury which kept him out of 12 matches, returning almost two months later, just before the coronavirus pandemic suspended world football. Of course, when he returned, Pogba was still not playing and Bruno Fernandes has been signed and United were playing a better brand of football. McTominay scored that goal at Old Trafford against Manchester City, seeing the Red Devils beat their rivals 2-0 in the league, doing the double over them.

The arrival of Fernandes, the return from injury of Pogba and the form of Nemanja Matic has left McTominay on the bench more often than not and since the restart, has not had the same thing about him after he had before the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst the player will be able to force his way back into contention with hard work on the training ground, it will need to be something that happens sooner rather than later with United linked with many midfielders this summer.

McTominay has a good career ahead of him but he will not be happy to remain on the bench most of the time. With better players coming to the club, it will always be tough for others but that is raising the bar and allowing the players the time and grace to grow, fighting for their places in the team, which in turn will raise the game and be good for the club. McTominay is not a player that will accept defeat, he has fought on the pitch and will do so to get back into the team. Speaking to Betfair and reported by The Mirror, Berbatov said:

“It’s interesting to see Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] rely on this 11, and it shows these are the main guys, with some exceptional talent.

“Other players are getting chances, but there is a clear hierarchy now between starters and subs. This isn’t permanent and shouldn’t be.

“Take Scott McTominay, he is on the bench now, so he needs to work very hard to get into the starting XI.

“He needs to stay after training, show he’s willing to put in the extra effort. Ole will see and appreciate this. Scott can do it because he is a very talented boy.”

This season, McTominay has made a total of 37 appearances for United, scoring five goals and one assist which is an improvement from his 22 appearances, scoring two goals and no assists during the 2018/19 season. At 23, the player still has time to grow but seems to be a bit more talented than Andreas Pereira, who has been afforded a lot of time at United, not actually proving anything. McTominay is a player that will fight for a result and has done so this season. He is capable of a lot and will regain his form and challenge the likes of Pogba, Matic and possibly Fernandes.

Written by John Walker

Di’Shon Bernard, Largie Ramazani and James Garner tipped to be the next big thing at Manchester United

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay has named some of the players within the Old Trafford club’s academy that he considers to be the ones to keep a look out for in the coming years. Over the years, United has been excited about many prospects from the academy of the club from Duncan Edwards, George Best, and Ryan Giggs and beyond.

McTominay himself made the rise from the academy to become a regular first team player today. It is great to see first team players take an interest in the younger players at the club, which gives them the necessary attention, also showing the players themselves that they are appreciated from those already in the first team, a boost if you will.

McTominay feels that United supporters have a lot to be excited about in the future with many good players coming through the youth ranks in various positions. However, the 23-year-old highlighted three players for us all to look out for and all three of them have been noticed by the club and the supporters, especially this season.

Earlier this week, McTominay did a Q&A session with the official Manchester United website and on there he was asked about the youth players that he feels are showing good signs at the club. It was here where he mentioned three names; Di’Shon Bernard, Largie Ramazani, and James Garner. McTominay said:

“For the younger boys? There’s a lot.

“You see Di’Shon [Bernard], Largie [Ramazani], Jimmy [Garner], you see Mason [Greenwood], obviously, coming in and Mason’s on his way to being established.

“He’s not quite at that level of being a regular first-teamer, and that’s what Mason has to strive to become.

“He’s one of the most talented players that I’ve seen for a long time – his left-foot, right-foot shooting is ridiculous.”

The three players, all of them 19, have been playing well this season, until the coronavirus pandemic suspended world football, which also cancelled the remainder of the season for youth football. Garner has already played for the first team this season, making 19 appearances at U23 and first team level, scoring nine goals and three assists.

Ramazani has made his first team debut earlier this season and in total, at U23 and first team level, he has made a total of 17 appearances, scoring 10 goals and two assists. Bernard also made his debut for the first team this season, making a total of 17 appearances at U23 and first team level, scoring no goals but getting one assist.

All three players have been exciting at times this season. Garner seems to be a player in the mould of Paul Scholes and seems to be able to score some stunning goals. Ramazani is a quick and tricky winger, who can also play through the middle, showing his ability on the pitch this season and Bernard is a central defender, his composure is second to none.

It is always great to see academy players rise to the challenge and that challenge will be tough on the road to them finding their feet in the first team at the Old Trafford club, playing at the Theatre of Dreams well into the future. It is not something that happens for all, but does happen for some. If they all keep their heads down and continue their development, there could be no stopping them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told he could be at risk of losing Scott McTominay, says Brian McClair

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been warned by a familiar face at the Old Trafford club that he could lose midfielder Scott McTominay in the near future. When Jose Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 and Solskjaer came in, McTominay could have been heading to Celtic on loan, which would have been a shame for United.

Instead though, the academy graduate remained at United and with injuries to Paul Pogba for much of the current season, the Lancaster-born Scottish international has earned his stripes and played some beautiful football at the club, scoring a stunning goal in Old Trafford’s last game against Manchester City with United coming out on top.

Former United forward, Brian McClair, who was also the head of United’s academy until 2015, when Nicky Butt took over, has praised the Scotland international, albeit with a warning that would need attention paid to it. McTominay has been a standout player for the club this season, some supporters don’t seem to rate him though, for whatever reason.

McClair spoke to Superstar Speakers about McTominay, who this season, despite suffering from injury himself, has made a total of 27 appearances, playing in the Premier League, Carabao Cup, UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup, scoring five goals and one assist, spending a total of 2,063 minutes on the football pitch. McClair said:

“I think Scott McTominay, if he stays at Manchester United, will be a great player for Manchester United.

“It’s a similar thing to Darren Fletcher. He’s come through the youth system, he wants it, he’s a Manchester United fan, he’s determined.

“He’s overcome several situations with regards to growth spurts, injury and illness.

“I think he can be a Manchester United great.

“I hope that he remains at Manchester United for long enough for that to occur but it would not surprise me if there were other clubs looking to recruit him in the not too distant future.”

McTominay has risen through the ranks since he was given his debut by Mourinho, finding his feet and actually offering what United needed from time to time. Granted, he’s not going to be a household name in world football but he will be a name that is recognised for what he has done for his club. Solskjaer will need to keep this in mind.

I don’t for one minute think that Solskjaer would sell McTominay right now as there are players who are needing to go through the Old Trafford exits before anyone else does. However, if he’s not getting regular football, which might happen if Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes form a special partnership, depending on what formation is used.

If Solskjaer opts for a three-man midfield, whether a 4-3-3 formation or a 4-4-2 diamond, there could be space for McTominay in the squad. Fred has been a breath of fresh air this season, showing that he just needed regular football in order to find his form at the club, despite the fact Mourinho had already called time at United for him.

McTominay can bring something to the team. Pogba, if he stays at the club, and Fernandes are not going to play every game in the centre of the pitch together, so there will be rotation options. Having McTominay in the midfield with the duo could be something special based on the work rate of the player and his ability on and off the ball.

Manchester United may not have replaced Michael Carrick but there is a gem from within who could fill the void

Manchester United have a problem in midfield this summer which requires strengthening, according to Danny Murphy on talkSPORT. The former Liverpool and England midfielder has suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has work to do in replacing Michael Carrick, who retired at the end of the 2017/18 season, becoming a coach at the club.

Carrick signed for United from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006 for a fee of £14 million, which could have risen to £18.6 million. The combative midfielder played for the club for 12 seasons before hanging up his boots and becoming a coach under Jose Mourinho and continuing under Solskjaer. Carrick was the reason United’s midfield has depth.

During his career at the club, as a player, Carrick won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup – only the UEFA Super Cup is missing from his list of honours. A great career for a great midfielder.

During the summer, United were linked with many midfielders, failing to sign a single one. Having sold Marouane Fellaini in January and with Ander Herrera leaving as a free agent in the summer, it was expected that at least two central midfielders would be signed. However, that did not happen. Solskjaer’s side may have wanted to make signing though.

For the duration of the summer, Solskjaer was linked to Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff, a connection that was mocked by supposed supporters of the club on Twitter. It would seem that supporters think United should be signing experienced world class players, ignoring the fact that Longstaff has the skills to be a great player.

Former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez one stated that Longstaff was like Carrick but with more mobility and more in the tank. If only some supposed United supporters looked forwards instead of always looking back, they might understand the game a bit more. There is little point buying ready-made players, helping to develop younger players works.

Carrick was a deep-lying midfielder, one that did not rely on pace, stamina, physical attributes, box-to-box play or tackling like a typical midfielder. Instead, Carrick relied on his reading of the game, helping him to anticipate attacking threats from the opposition. This helped him and all the teams he played for. Carrick has been praised by legends of the game, including Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

Longstaff is a born leader, he has perfect his passing to the best of his abilities, he gets stuck into the game and has his entire career ahead of him. You should be able to see why Longstaff was linked to United and why Newcastle seemed to put a huge price tag on the player this summer, seemingly wanting to keep him. Speaking about United’s midfield, Murphy told talkSPORT:

“And then of course in the middle of the park I’m still not sure that it’s the right balance.

“I think they need another, I keep saying it, Michael Carrick, but where do you find a Michael Carrick?

“But that type, someone who can sit in there, [Paul] Pogba likes to go forward and do his bit, someone who can sit in there.

“[Scott] McTominay’s a good player but he’s not someone that can dictate tempo like Carrick did. They’ve never replaced him as far as I’m concerned.”

United though, have a player of their own who could help strengthen the midfield and add something Carrick-esque in the centre of the pitch. His name is James Garner. The 18-year-old has made his first team debut for United but has yet to play a considerable amount of minutes at a competitive level. He was involved in the clubs summer pre-season tour.

Garner has started to establish himself in the U23 squad this season, under Neil Wood and Quinton Fortune, playing all 360 minutes of action with United beating Rotherham United 2-0, West Bromwich Albion 5-0, Reading 2-0, and Newcastle United 4-0, showing his ability and more importantly his development at a higher level than U18 football.

Garner has four goals and one assist at this level this season, scoring a brace against West Brom, once against Reading and Newcastle, getting his assist against Rotherham in the EFL Trophy. Garner may not be ready to be considered for the first team right now but during the course of the season, if he continues on this trajectory, the world could be his oyster.

Looking at Manchester United’s midfield depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United’s midfield is somewhat depleted following the departure of Marouane Fellaini in January and Ander Herrera leaving the club as a free agent in the summer. At least that is what the moaning relates to as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have strengthened the midfield during the summer transfer window.

However, the Norwegian opted to sign a winger instead, in Daniel James, who arrived for £15 million from Swansea City. It was a summer that saw Paul Pogba state to the media that he wanted a new challenge and one which saw United linked to a number of different midfielders. Bruno Fernandes was linked to the club for the entire summer window.

Some will suggest that United’s midfield is weak and there are no positives should Pogba actually leave before the European window closes, or if he suffers from an injury. However, as an optimist, I see options, not great options but options for players to grow and learn a place in the midfield. However, some will not be happy with this fix.

Defensive midfield depth; a player on the decline or players lacking experience.

Nemanja Matic is the player with experience in the defensive midfield position. But as last season and during pre-season has clearly shown, the Serbian has lost his pace, is slow and on the decline. Based on this, he will not be expected to play a big role at the club this season. There are players under him with less experience.

At this moment in time, Scott McTominay will start ahead of Matic as he has been offering more to the team than Matic can at the minute, possibly for the future too. In rotation, McTominay could be challenged by Andreas Pereira and Tim Fosu-Mensah, once he has recovered from knee surgery. Another option is James Garner.

It might not be something that you would consider great depth but it is still depth nonetheless. McTominay has developed into a decent midfielder and that has not finished for him. Having the likes of Pereira, Fosu-Mensah and Garner, also Matic means there are options there if there needs to be. Solskjaer has a plan and he will follow that plan.

Central midfield depth; Pogba has little competition for a starting central midfield role.

In this position, Paul Pogba is the player that others will need to get past in order to play regularly, at least in the 4-2-3-1 formation with only two midfielders. In another formation, say 4-3-3, a third midfielder would be given the chance to earn their place in the team. However, the 4-2-3-1 formation has been used most often by Solskjaer.

If Pogba was to be injured or was rested keeping in mind bigger matches during the course of the season, the likes of Fred and Andreas Pereira could replace him in the team. Fred could also play as a defensiveminded midfielder but this being his second season, it would be best to see him play this role. Garner too, however, it may be too soon for him.

Pereira has done well, however, I am not sure the centre of midfield is where Pereira should be playing; he played on the right-wing for periods against Chelsea last weekend. The depth here is not the greatest but it will have to do, until January at least when Solskjaer may make a move to strengthen his squad. Failing that, it will be next summer.

The formation above shows the depth of the midfield. There are seven players competing for a central midfield role, of which in the current formation, two will start each match. If the formation changes, there could be a further place available in the team. There is some strengthening needed but that doesn’t just mean buying players.

There are many players in the team that could be used in these positions if the need arises. I am sure Juan Mata could play a central role, as could Angel Gomes. It might not be ideal but it could work. However, with the seven names to fortify these positions, it would take a long injury list to ensure Solskjaer played other players out of their favoured positions.

The depth is there, although it is not as magnificent as it might be. But the way I look at things, the depth of the squad, at least in the striker role was not great in the 2015/16 season and after Anthony Martial injured himself in the warm-up ahead of the Midtjylland match, Marcus Rashford may not have had the impact in which he’s had. Every cloud and all that!

copyright: JW