Give Scott McTominay’s name greater honor! More players like Scotland’s amazing goal scorer are needed at Man Utd.

Erik ten Hag might not value the midfielder’s technical skills, but his passion, work-rate and mentality can help dig the Red Devils out of their hole

After completing one of the most frantic comebacks in Manchester United’s history against Brentford last Saturday, Scott McTominay decided to pay tribute to the club’s soul. “I can’t describe how I felt about the second goal. I was watching David Beckham’s documentary last night and you see the history and the people behind the club,” said the unlikely match-winner after scoring in the 92nd and 96th minutes.

“That’s what the lads do it for, Kath on reception, the kit men, everyone, it’s so important we all come together and we do it for the people. I’m a fan myself, so I want to do well.”It was touching if slightly bizarre thing to say after turning a potentially disastrous defeat into a victory. But it also served as a reminder of the importance of having homegrown players who understand the club’s values and will adhere to them.

After all, the best United teams in the modern era have had a healthy mix of world-class stars imported from elsewhere who could make the difference and homegrown players who could always be relied on to give everything when putting on a red shirt.McTominay belongs to the latter half, and his heroic cameo against Brentford is not the only reason United need to value him more.

A steady stream of youth-team playersThe treble-winning United team that Beckham was part of and inspired McTominay had six players who came through the club’s academy, otherwise known as ‘The Class of ’92’. Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were super-talented and would have walked into most other top teams of the era. The other three – Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville – stood out more for their commitment and mentality than their God-given skills. And they were just as important to that team’s success.Giggs, Scholes and Gary Neville were still around when United next won the Champions League in 2008 and they were backed up by fellow academy graduates Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea and Wes Brown.Sir Alex Ferguson’s last squad, meanwhile, contained Fletcher, Giggs, Scholes (albeit past their best by that time), plus Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck.

Academy’s influence fades when Ferguson leavesAlthough United continue to have homegrown players in their first-team squad and boast the remarkable statistic of having had one on the pitch or on the bench for every game since 1937, the influence of the academy has slowly faded since Ferguson’s departure.Louis van Gaal got rid of Evans and Welbeck, against his better wisdom, and his team was left without much of a connection with the club’s roots, until Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford emerged in his second season. That might go some way to explaining how his side moved the ball so slowly from side to side and lacked the dynamism of United teams from the past.

Loved by MourinhoJose Mourinho was not a man who cared too much about blooding academy players, but he greatly admired McTominay, promoting him from the youth team to the first team in May 2017.After a smattering of appearances in less high-profile games, Mourinho threw the youngster in at the deep end, starting him away to Sevilla in a Champions League last-16 first leg in February 2018 in place of Pogba.Mourinho liked McTominay so much that he decided to give him an impromptu prize at the club’s Player of the Season awards ceremony later that year, handing the midfielder a fancy candlestick holder and dubbing it ‘the Jose Mourinho award’.After surprisingly fielding McTominay in defence in a defeat at West Ham the following season – which proved to be Mourinho’s last – the coach singled out McTominay’s character after receiving criticism for picking him.“He’s a special character, a special personality that a team in a negative moment needs,” Mourinho said. “Do my other players have that mentality? Not all of them. Everybody is a different person. Scott McTominay is a kid with a special character, very humble, aggressive in a positive way, brave, he’s a special kid.”McTominay has hailed Mourinho’s influence on his career. He said in 2019: “He’ll always have a special place in mine and my family’s heart because he’s the one who brought you in, he was the one who trusted you, he was the one who had belief in you.

Valued by Solskjaer, overlooked by Ten HagMourinho’s successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, also rated McTominay highly. He described him as “a monster of a human being” and made him his first-choice central midfielder along with Fred.The ‘McFred’ partnership was widely derided, but it should not be forgotten that the Scotland and Brazilian internationals’ midfield axis helped United finished in the top three for two seasons on the trot, the only time that has happened since Ferguson retired.Ten Hag, however, came to United with different ideas about how he wanted the team to play, imagining a team much more comfortable in possession and able to move the ball around more freely than under his predecessors.McTominay, it appeared, did not meet the standard he expected from his midfielders. Since the Dutchman took charge of United, McTominay has made just 16 starts in all competitions. Casemiro, by contrast, has started 54 games and would have started even more had he not been suspended for eight matches.

‘Gives his life for the badge’And the truth is that McTominay was one of several players Ten Hag was willing to sell in the summer for the right price. In the end, only West Ham showed any real interest in signing him, but offered just £30 million ($36m), around £10m ($12m) shy of United’s valuation. Ten Hag continued to use McTominay sparingly after the transfer window closed. But now he appears willing to embrace the midfielder’s other qualities.”When there is the right price then every player has a price, but he has a big value, sporting and also economic,” Ten Hag said on Saturday. “He is Manchester United in everything and in his heart. So he’s playing for the badge. He gives his life. Every minute he will fight for the match. Those players you need in the squad.”With a number of first-choice players injured and many of last season’s stalwarts fading fast, there is an increased need for McTominay’s hard graft, and the case is building for him to get more starts. Right now he would represent an upgrade on Casemiro, who was hauled off at half-time against Brentford.

Scoring for fun with ScotlandBut perhaps it is it time to reimagine McTominay’s position entirely. Against Brentford, he showed determination in the box and kept a cool head when all his team-mates were losing theirs. His stunning cameo suggested United have not been making the most of his striking prowess, unlike Scotland.McTominay has been playing as an advanced midfielder for his national team since the start of the Euro 2024 qualifiers and with stunning results. He has scored six goals in five matches, making making him joint-second top scorer in qualifying alongside United team-mate Rasmus Hojlund, only trailing Romelu Lukaku.McTominay’s prolific form has taken Scotland to the brink of qualifying for the European Championship. They lead a daunting Group A containing three-times European champions Spain as well as Norway, who have Martin Odegaard and Erling Haaland at their disposal. If they avoid defeat to Spain on Thursday or Norway fail to beat Cyprus, then the Tartan Army will become the first team to clinch qualification for next year’s tournament in Germany.McTominay plays in an advanced role in Steve Clarke’s 3-4-2-1 formation, getting forward along with Aston Villa’s John McGinn, with Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour anchoring the midfield behind them. Curiously, the Scotland coach used to play McTominay in defence, but after watching him score two stunning goals against Leeds for United almost three years ago, Clarke wondered if his star man was being “wasted” in defence and felt compelled to find him a role further forward

Give him the tools to get more goalsTen Hag is unlikely to abandon his usual 4-2-3-1 formation just to accommodate McTominay, but he could swap the Scotland man with Fernandes, who performed well in a deeper role last season when Casemiro was suspended.Fernandes has also had a difficult campaign playing in the No.10 postion, so a change could do him some good and allow McTominay to show what he can offer further forward.McTominay’s two-goal salvo against Brentford took him to the top of United’s scoring charts in the Premier League alongside Fernandes, despite playing just 185 minutes to the Portuguese’s 720. But whether it is anchoring the midfield or spearheading it, McTominay can offer the bloody-mindedness which United have been severely lacking this season.

Never throw the towel in’Ten Hag admitted after the Brentford game that United have simply not shown enough desire for most of their rotten campaign. “It can’t be easy going. In football it is eat or get eaten,” he said. “Too many times in the first half of this season we got eaten by opponents who are more hungry. This can’t be. This has to change.” Who better than a homegrown player like McTominay to lead the reset?”I think if you’re a Manchester United fan you know that Scott will always love the club and will always fight for his place,” said Diogo Dalot. “He’s a player that you can always count on, no matter if he starts every week or is on the bench for a few games. He always comes in and tries to give the best for the team.”Dalot made an important point. Although not many United fans would count McTominay as their favourite player, few players in the squad quite embody the club’s spirit. That was clear in the midfielder’s post-match interview when, after paying tribute to both Beckham and Kath on reception, he spoke of the need to always keep going, just as he did when United were four minutes away from disaster.”Never give up, man. You never give up. No matter the situation in life you, never give up, never throw the towel in,” McTominay said. “At this football club, it’s demanded that you never do that. I’ve been brought up since I was five years old here and I know that better than anyone.”

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