As featured on Sportskeeda March 8, 2019.
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over at Manchester United, many have marvelled at the seemingly instantaneous way that players have blossomed and started to realize their full potential. Marcus Rashford has brought a consistency to his play that has escaped him up until this point in his career, Romelu Lukaku is scoring for fun, and Paul Pogba is finally showing why he is a 90 million pound footballer. It is perhaps to be expected though, that under a forward-thinking manager, that creative, attacking players would thrive.
However, not so much was expected of Scott McTominay. If Fellaini represented the Moyes era, McTominay, through no fault of his own, in many ways represented the Mourinho era. Mourinho consistently went out of his way to praise McTominay and used his selflessness and willingness to take on board instruction as a foil to attack the mercurial Pogba. Under Mourinho, McTominay was safe and steady, but never spectacular. Often played to the right of a midfield 3, he kept the ball, was nice and tidy in possession but never demonstrated the kind of dominating performance that would make anyone think his long term future was at United.
As the saying goes, "One man's loss is another man's gain." When Nemanja Matic picked up a training ground injury the day before the clash against bitter rivals Liverpool on February 24th, Scott McTominay was an unlikely, and perhaps unpopular name on the team sheet. But since coming into the team, he has finally been played in his best position at the base of the midfield protecting the back four and has shown why he may have a career at United after all. While playing Liverpool, Crystal Palace, and Southampton, McTominay looked bright and grew in confidence with each and every pass and tackle he made. So much so, the loss of Matic, in addition to the other first choice midfielder Ander Herrera, was not felt as harshly as some had predicted it would. But facing Paris Saint Germain in the cacophonous Parc des Princes, was where many expected McTominay and the rest of United's walking wounded would be found out.
In the Parisian rain on Wednesday night, McTominay was up against world-class opposition in Marco Veratti and Marquinhos and he responded by putting on his best performance to date in a United shirt. His passing was crisp, assertive, and forward when it needed to be, and on more than one occasion he stuck a gangly leg out to poke the ball away from an opponent and win back possession for his team. Rashford and Lukaku stole the headlines, but McTominay, alongside the tenacious duo of Fred and Andreas Pereira, provided the stability in midfield that allowed United's attacking players to press and flourish.
United face another big test on Sunday as they face top four rivals Arsenal at the Emirates. At this morning's press conference, Solskjaer said that Matic could be fit enough to return to the squad. But regardless of Matic's fitness, McTominay has earned the right to start against Arsenal. And whenever Matic does regain 100% fitness, there are no guarantees that he will walk straight back into the starting XI. McTominay may have been a Mourinho favourite in the past, but he has proven over the last month that he is every bit a Solskjaer man now.