‘He’s driving forward, I’m not sure whether that’s in the tactics or if he just fancied it, but he’s gone and Martial comes inside, sees him running and he’s off. His first touch is brilliant, his second is sublime.
‘We thought United would counter-attack and attack quickly, but we didn’t think that the holding midfielder would be on the end of it. What a start.’
These were pundit Gary Neville’s words on Sky Sports last Sunday as Manchester United’s Scott McTominay scored two goals in the first three minutes to shock Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United and pave the way for a commanding 6-2 victory against the old rivals at Old Trafford.
McTominay progressed through United’ academy as a fairly attacking central midfielder – indeed, he started life as a striker – but in a team with the likes of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Fred and Donny van de Beek, the Soctsman has reinvented himself as a defensive midfielder – a job he is doing well enough to keep specialist Nemanja Matic out of the starting eleven.
But it is normally no-frills football. ‘McSauce’ is appreciated by the fans but it is fair to say that he is not seen as one of the team’s superstars but rather more as a ‘water carrier’, to quote a certain Frenchman. Forward runs are normally rare.
The addition of that element to McTominay’s game on Sunday did more than win the game for United. It showed us the player that the Lancaster-born man is capable of being. Undeniably world class.
There are two important questions about what we witnessed. The first is, what prompted Scott to suddenly break free of his shackles and play with that instinct and drive? Was it manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s instructions, or was it that he ‘just fancied it,’ as Neville said? Whatever the case, it was transformative to McTominay as a player and United as a side.
The second question is whether that performance was a flash in the pan, or whether it is the dawning of a new stage in the 24-year-old’s career. Simply put, can he keep doing what he did on Sunday?
Nobody expects him to score two goals in three minutes every game, or even one goal in 90 for that matter, but the all-round level of performance, marauding around the pitch, dominating the midfield, unafraid to show silky skills, advanced passes and forward runs – can Scotty keep it up? Have we found the next Roy Keane meets Bryan Robson? Do we have another world class midfielder in our ranks?
We may have to wait a while to find out, as a groin strain suffered in injury time could see McTominay sidelined for a few more games. But right now, he seems so superhuman that it would not be a surprise to see him heal like someone with a health pack on Assassin’s Creed and hit the ground running again this lunchtime against Leicester City. Watch this space.
Edinson Cavani has made quite an impact since his deadline day arrival at Old Trafford, but how much do you know about our other South American players, past and present? Take our quiz below to find out!