Scott McTominay faces a fight for his place at Manchester United this week.
Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic both looked sharp after coming off the bench against Tottenham, and it is probable the Scot will drop out.
A trio of Pogba, Matic and Bruno Fernandes is on paper, United’s most balanced and best midfield combination.
Just don’t expect McTominay to be out of the starting line-up for very long.
He is used to battling the odds
McTominay was not supposed to break through at United. Not many do under Jose Mourinho.
While Mourinho likes to involved and hand often token debuts to young players, he rarely trusts them in regular starting roles.
McTominay was the odd one out. He was the only academy player to break into United’s first team as a regular during Mourinho’s two-and-a-half year stint at the club. He made a total of 31 appearances under him.
But by time Mourinho’s spell ended, McTominay was cast aside, after an ill-fated plan to play him at centre-back.
For the first two months under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, McTominay was an afterthought as a three-man midfield of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera starred.
By the end of the season all three had either lost form or were injured, and McTominay was one of the main men, the only United midfielder to end the 2018/19 season with any credit, after a series of committed performances led with the away game in Paris.
This past season McTominay has been a shining light, with tireless performances aided by chipping in with the odd spectacular goal here and there.
At times he has looked like a future United captain, and he plays with his heart on his sleeve.
Every team needs a McTominay
Now as United return to action, McTominay’s battle for a place is tougher than ever.
He is one of four midfielders competing for two spots alongside Bruno Fernandes, along with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Fred.
Pogba, Matic and Fred are all big money investments and yet McTominay has something different, he is a homegrown player who has the attitude he coaches love. He just gets it.
On pure skill level and talent alone, McTominay should not by rights be in United’s first choice midfield three.
Yet the young Scot has something un-quantifiable, an attitude and competitive determination which will always see him come out on top.
This is how he was the one player from his under-23 peer group to make it through under Jose Mourinho. And it is how he goes toe-to-toe against the league’s best midfielders and holds his own.
For now, McTominay will have to fight for his place, and he will have to be patient, used on a rotational basis. Competition is good.
Yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to start him and play him for all 90 minutes against Tottenham shows how highly he is valued.
The incoming Pogba, Matic, and Fernandes triumvirate have high potential and could help rip the league up for United over the coming weeks.
But whether it is this season or next, McTominay will somehow find a way to push back, and demonstrate his importance to the side. He always does.
Whatever barrier put in front of him, McTominay will come back more determined, and smash through it. It’s what he has done his whole career.
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