Ten Hag’s Man Utd needs more heroes like McTominay

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McTominay may not be a very outstanding player, but coach Ten Hag wants Man Utd to have more stars like the Scottish player.

After completing one of the fastest comebacks in Manchester United’s history against Brentford last Saturday, Scott McTominay decided to pay tribute to the soul of the club. “I can’t express my feelings with the second goal. Last night, I watched the documentary about David Beckham and you could see the history and the people behind the club,” said the goalscorer. Unexpected decision after scoring in the 92nd and 96th minutes.

“That’s why the boys do it, Kath at the front desk, the suit makers, everyone, it’s important that we come together and we do it for everyone. I’m also a fan, so I want to do well.”

It’s a bit endearing but also a bit odd to say that after turning a potential loss into a win. But it’s also a reminder of the importance of having local players who understand the club’s values and adhere to them.

After all, Manchester United’s best teams of the modern era have had a healthy mix of world-class stars imported from elsewhere who can make a difference and local players. Phuong can always be trusted to sacrifice everything when wearing the red shirt.

McTominay belongs to the latter group, and his heroic performance against Brentford is not the only reason United needs to rate him highly.

A stable group of young players

The treble-winning Manchester United team in which Beckham participated and inspired McTominay had six players from the club’s academy, also known as “The Class of ’92”. Beckham, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes were supremely talented and could have easily been in the squads of most other top teams of that era. The remaining three players – Nicky Butt, Gary, and Phil Neville – stand out more for their spirit and commitment than for their natural skills. And they are equally important to the success of that team.

Giggs, Scholes, and Gary Neville remained at the club when United won the Champions League in 2008 and they were supported by other academy alumni such as Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea, and Wes Brown.

The final squad under Sir Alex Ferguson also featured Fletcher, Giggs, and Scholes (though by that time they were past their prime), along with Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverley, and Danny Welbeck, who was also a student at the academy.

Let’s create conditions for McTominay to shine

Ten Hag is unlikely to abandon his usual 4-2-3-1 system just to adjust for McTominay, but he could change the Scot’s position with Fernandes, who has performed better in a deep role than last season when Casemiro was suspended.

Fernandes has also had a difficult campaign as a number 10, so a change could do him good and allow McTominay to show what he can offer in a further forward position.

McTominay’s brace of goals against Brentford put him top of United’s Premier League scoring chart alongside Fernandes, although he only played 185 minutes compared to the Portuguese’s 720 minutes. But whether anchoring the midfield or leading the charge, McTominay can bring the determination that United have sorely lacked this season.

‘Don’t give up’

Ten Hag admitted after the Brentford game that United simply did not show enough desire for most of their poor season. “It’s not easy going into the match. In football, you have to eat or be eaten,” he said. “Too many times in the first half of this season we have been eaten up by aggressive opponents. This is unacceptable. This must change.” Who would be better suited than a local player like McTominay to lead the restart?

“I think if you are a Manchester United fan, you know that Scott always loved the club and always fought for his place,” said Diogo Dalot. “He is a player you can always count on, whether he is starting every week or sitting on the bench for a few matches. He always comes on the field and tries to give the best for the team.”

Dalot made an important point. Although not many United fans view McTominay as their favorite player, few players in the squad embody the club’s spirit like he does. That was clear in the midfielder’s post-match interview when he, after paying tribute to both Beckham and Kath at the reception, spoke of the need to always keep trying, like he did when United were down to four minutes away from disaster.

“Don’t give up, friend. Never give up. No matter the situation in life, never give up, never throw the towel away,” McTominay said. “At this football club, it’s expected that you never do that. I’ve been brought up since I was five years old here and I understand that better than anyone.”


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