Manchester United’s best midfielders have always been goalscoring ones. Paul Scholes made a habit of it, and Bruno Fernandes has followed in the footsteps of his fellow number 18.
Roy Keane, Bryan Robson and Sir Bobby Charlton all knew how to chip in with goals from central midfield, and while Scott McTominay has an incredibly long way to be considered in such company, he is at least finding the scoresheet once again.
Between February and December 2021, McTominay failed to score a single goal. Now he has struck two goals in his last three games.
United boss Ralf Rangnick made a point of praising him after the game, telling BBC Sport: “He [McTominay] is an academy boy, his energy is amazing. He now also starts scoring goals and also with some leadership skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years he would be the captain of this team.”
His header to open the scoring against Aston Villa was once Scholes would have been proud of, taking advantage of space in the box to get on the end of a cross and directing it into the back of the net.
Prior to McTominay’s goal drought, he had been on a goalscoring blitz by his standards, netting seven goals between September and February of last season, the same number striker Anthony Martial scored last season too.
His subsequent lack of goals was a blow, because McTominay is a far better midfielder when he is getting into the final third.
United fans have been calling for a defensive midfielder to join the club for a couple of years now. The club hoped McTominay could be groomed as Nemanja Matic’s replacement, but he is quite plainly not up to the task.
As he has shown again lately, McTominay is better when he is freed up from some defensive responsibility and allowed to attack.
As a goalscoring midfielder he can be an asset to United. There is no reason why he should not be targeting 10 goals a season from the position, he has the capability.
The problem with McTominay is a lack of consistency. While he scored and played well in games against Burnley and Villa, he was very poor in the defeat against Wolves.
And the issue with McTominay’s goals is that they have come in spurts, with such a long stretch between his strikes last year. United need him to become a consistent contributor, which to be fair he was last season before the goals dried up in February. He now has 16 United career goals in total.
McTominay selection is consistent
While Manchester United fans yearn for the likes of Robson and Keane of yesteryear and consider McTominay a poor imitation, the club’s last three managers have all seen something they like in him.
Jose Mourinho was the manager who gave him his debut and likes to remind people about it, telling The Sun earlier this year he believed in him when few else did.
McTominay became a favourite under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, playing 115 games under the Norwegian, and he has since become a near ever present under Ralf Rangnick.
The big challenge for McTominay will come when United do sign a couple more midfielders, but you wouldn’t bet against him retaining a regular role.
To do so, McTominay needs to continue to score and show his best form. When he chips in with goals he is useful, and this is what United fans expect from midfielders. He’s clearly capable, and hopefully there won’t be a long stretch until his next goal.
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