Scott McTominay’s injury in December was a tough blow for United. He has been missed, although it might have been worse.
Nemanja Matic has stepped up and is playing some of the best football of his United career. Without him we would be in real trouble.
Ahead of McTominay’s projected return later this month, [Premierinjuries.com], the Scot is in a good position.
United will welcome him back. But the club do not have to rush his return. It’s important to get it right.
And credit to Matic, the Serbian does not deserve to be dropped instantly when McTominay makes his comeback.
If not for the winter break, McTominay might have gone straight back in the side. But the fortnight off – plus his suspension against Wolves – is giving Matic the rest he needs after a hectic month.
Busy schedule will provide chance
When action resumes in the middle of February, United face playing six games in 15 days, across Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League matches.
This means McTominay’s return will be welcomed, and he will get his chances. But it is unlikely he will start the ‘big games’.
If fit, he will possibly be eased back in at home to Watford, in between the Europa League ties against Club Brugges, and then will start the FA Cup game at Derby.
It is up to McTominay across these chances, to prove he deserves to displace Matic, or even to slot in ahead of Fred, who has not missed a league game since the start of October.
If Paul Pogba shakes off his injury problems, the battle for midfield places will get even more complicated.
All of this is good for McTominay. It means he will have to work harder, and won’t be resting on his laurels and just assuming he takes his place back in the team.
Big 2019, bigger 2020?
He was magnificent in the first half of the season, one of United’s most impressive and consistent players, demonstrating his leadership abilities as well as growing into a role as a box to box midfielder.
Matic and Fred’s displays over the past month have made it easy to forget just how good McTominay was.
He carried on his solid form at the end of the 2018/19 season and earned back to back player of the month awards at United in September and October.
Whoscored.com data shows McTominay makes more tackles per game (2.2) than any United midfielder this season who has played more than two games, with the joint highest interception rate (1.4) with Fred.
We expect McTominay to grow further in 2020 as a United player, and he will have to fight for his place back as a regular. This challenge could make him even better.
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