By Billy Brake.
Scott McTominay has been one of the few consistent performers for Manchester United this campaign and he could play a crucial part in turning the club’s fortunes around this season.
When the Lancaster-born midfielder first appeared on the scene, his appearances came at a relatively sluggish pace. But he made 16 of them in the Premier League last year and has ten already in 2019/20.
A month shy of turning 23, he has a total of 63 appearances in his career.
It’s what United have been desperately searching for in midfield, and a hole the club was haphazardly trying to fill with an ageing Nemanja Matic. Now, though, McTominay’s position in the team is cemented and the club are much stronger for it.
He has two goals to his name this season, and crucial ones at that. His rocket against Arsenal should’ve been the first in a United win, while his instinctive strike against Norwich followed a clever piece of running to outwit his marker.
Simply, he’s a midfield pillar that enables players to move around him. Willing to sit deep and make late moves forward, the fast pace of United’s play can pivot around McTominay.
Additionally, he has the skill to harass opposition midfielders and interfere with their build-up. His positioning ensures that he shields in front of his defenders. Strength and stamina mean he forces opposing players down narrow alleys and often forces mistakes.
McTominay also provides something United lack all over the pitch — the ability to slow things down. For all their ability, the vast majority of his teammates require speed to move the game. But McTominay has the prowess to slow it down and calm his team, a necessary willingness to not rush and let United find their shape when hey need to.
It takes some defensive responsibility off his teammates and, particularly when playing the 3-5-2, allows the wingbacks to push higher up.
Against Chelsea in the League Cup he made more tackles, more interceptions, won more fouls, and made more recoveries than any of his team-mates. He never shied from the physical battle and managed to subdue an experienced midfield pair of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic.
With five wins in the last six games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally looks to be getting some momentum going at just the right time, when the club are under more scrutiny than ever before. While this upturn in form has been helped by Anthony Martial’s return to the team, and Marcus Rashford’s purple patch, it owes a large amount to the young Scottish international.
A frustrating loss at Bournemouth interrupted this run, but a comfortable victory over Partizan did the whole squad a world of good, and the 3-1 win at home to brighton only added to the feel-good factor.
McTominay has been crying out for is somebody to sit beside him in midfield, and Solskjaer finally looks to have found that in the shape of Fred.
McTominay and Fred fill the flaws in each other’s play perfectly. While McTominay can work as a block, towering at six foot three and strong, Fred is agile and nimble, able to press faster and move forward with the ball, safeguarded by McTominay.
Paul Pogba is set to return to Manchester United’s starting XI in the coming weeks. This man should play in the #10 role with McTominay and Fred behind him. Would be the perfect role. 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/ruGAK9RMGN
— Red Devil Bible (@RedDevilBible) November 12, 2019
It seemed an obvious pairing for a long while, one that would free up Pogba to play further forward in a role in which he thrives. He simply isn’t built as a player to wear six on his back, a number McTominay ought to bear.
While Fred hasn’t quite turned out to be the £53 million-man, he’s showing shades of the player he can be — helped by McTominay.
McTominay is already an assured presence in the centre of the Red Devils’ midfield, and his composure has been a key component of life in many games this season – just ask Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
United will hope the ankle injury he picked up against Brighton isn’t too serious, but he at least has an international break to begin his recovery.
“He went over on his ankle and it looked like a painful one,” said Solskjaer.
“He’s in for a scan so it could be a couple of weeks out but we hope not.”
He’s the essential cog in the red machine which could play a key part in the club’s future success.