Scott McTominay has become a key figure in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s young Manchester United side, and an inspired display against fierce rivals Liverpool could enhance his chances of being named club captain in the future.
This time last year it was difficult to see what McTominay offered to United’s midfield.
However, after improving under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then this season with the departure of Ander Herrera, and injuries to Paul Pogba, McTominay has stepped up and become the main midfield man with the likes of Nemanja Matic and Fred underwhelming.
The Scotland international has emerged as one of the leaders in a dressing room, which is lacking quality, characters and experience.
Only David de Gea and Harry Maguire have played more minutes (720) than the young Scot (707) in the Premier League so far this season.
The 22-year-old has started every league game for Solskjaer this campaign, he scored a screamer in the 1-1 draw to Arsenal and picked up his first assist for his beloved club in the draw away to Southampton.
The worlds most expensive defender (549) and Victor Lindelöf (456) are the only United players to have made more passes than McTominay (420).
United’s midfield enforcer has had 579 touches, only the former Leicester City centre back has more with 630.
In a team that is struggling to conjure up clear-cut goalscoring chances, McTominay has had 13 shots on goal, only Dan James (16) and Marcus Rashford have more (21).
As the season progresses, McTominay is becoming more and more confident in his ability to drive forward from deep and carry the ball forward in a lung busting run, trying to drive and inspire his team.
The number of tackles he is making has doubled this season compared to last from 1 to 2 per game, and he is now showcasing his desire to be a more creative force.
In 16 appearances last season, he created one chance and completed one dribble, whereas this season he has already created six opportunities and completed 11 dribbles. He is constantly improving and evolving as a player.
What does McTominay need to do on Sunday to show he is captain material?
Set the tempo
McTominay has handed out some crunching tackles already this season, but with Old Trafford rocking and the fans creating an intimidating atmosphere, an early marker laid down on a Liverpool player by the Scot could inspire the crowd and his team mates further.
The early stages of this game will be played at a frantic pace and it will be important for McTominay to get on the ball and drive his team forward, looking to supply the likes of Dan James, Marcus Rashford and maybe even Anthony Martial in dangerous areas.
United will need to be aggressive and force Liverpool into mistakes, McTominay will play a big part in ensuring that the United press makes life uncomfortable for Jurgen Klopp’s flair players and that they don’t get any time to settle on the ball.
Do it all on his own
Just like Roy Keane did in Turin in 1999. McTominay has the ability to be United’s go-to-man on Sunday and give the Red Devils’ season the lift off it desperately needs.
He isn’t going to have Paul Pogba next to him and he is going to be coming up against an energetic trio in Henderson, Wijnaldum and Fabinho, who will look to dominate the ball, McTominay is going to have to be at the very top of his game to thwart them.
But where is his help going to come from? The absence of Pogba is a massive blow for United, it means that the likes of Matic and Fred are in contention to start.
United can ill afford to be carrying any passengers in this game, McTominay is going to have to find a way to protect the back four and provide the link between the midfield and attack.
These are the type of games where heroes are made, can United’s academy graduate show why he could be the man to lead this new look team back to the very top.
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