The Curious Case of Scott McTominay: Assessing His Future at Manchester United

On Sunday, March 17, Scott McTominay once again delivered two vital goal contributions for Manchester United in their potentially season-defining FA Cup quarter-final victory against Liverpool. His goal and assist capped an all-round brilliant display. McTominay won 10 duels – more than any other player on the pitch – and won 100% of his tackles as the Devils booked their ticket for Wembley, where they will face off against Coventry City.



McTominay has delivered several key performances like this throughout Manchester United’s tumultuous season, so why is it that when the lineup was announced an hour before kick-off, many fans took to Twitter/X to bemoan his inclusion in the starting eleven?


The case of Scott McTominay is a strange one. He’s a United academy graduate who has scored countless match-changing goals for the club this season and is their second-best goalscorer, yet his status at Old Trafford is continually put up for debate. When a reported £30million bid from West Ham was rejected in the summer, a significant chunk of United fans questioned the decision, with the club struggling to sign players at the time due to restrictions caused by the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.


When the current season comes to an end, there will once again be question marks over McTominay’s future, despite the fact he has been such an important figure. So, what is the case for keeping or selling the Scotsman if a bid does come in?


Something that strengthens the argument to sell McTominay is that, unfortunately for the 27-year-old, he is one of United’s most sellable assets. While the Red Devils’ Financial Fair Play (FFP) concerns aren’t as significant as they were a year ago, the club are reportedly still looking to raise additional funds through player sales, as Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS Sport group seek to begin a squad rebuild.



Deals for the likes of Raphael Varane, Casemiro, Jadon Sancho, and Antony could be explored, although United would almost certainly make a net loss on all four of those players, and they could be difficult to shift due to their excessive wages. This could make the idea of cashing in on McTominay more appealing to the club – as an academy graduate, he would go in the books as a pure profit sale.


This is compounded by the fact that, as the INEOS project gets underway, McTominay’s role is unlikely to be a particularly significant one. Realistically, it’s only because of United’s extraordinary injury problems that he has featured so much this season, and for all his strengths, he does have technical limitations which will impact his minutes. United are likely to enter the transfer market for at least one new midfield signing in the summer, as Ten Hag looks for a player to fill Casemiro’s boots in the long term. Once again, a new holding midfielder is needed, with the ability to receive and distribute the ball from deep, and to comfortably play out under pressure.


This season, United’s injuries have caused ten Hag to divert significantly from what would be his ideal style of play, which has seen McTominay adopt a strange role mainly focused on him ‘box crashing’. This is why he’s having such a prolific goalscoring season. As the likes of Casemiro and Mason Mount return from injury, and with new midfield signings expected ahead of 2024/25, it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see McTominay feature in this role consistently moving forward. However, his unique ability to seemingly pop up out of nowhere and act as almost a second striker should make the club reconsider any decision to let him go.


We have seen throughout this season that McTominay’s unique profile can completely flip a game on its head, and while it has been over-relied upon this year, it is a really valuable tool for ten Hag to have in the squad. His ability when coming on as a substitute shouldn’t be understated either. Many players can take 10-15 minutes to settle into a game when appearing off the bench, but McTominay always seems sharp and ready to make an impact immediately. In United’s 2-1 win against Brentford in October, he wasn’t brought on until the 87th minute, but still managed to score two to snatch an important victory.


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His impact as a substitute is a reflection of his general attitude as a footballer. In the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, United players have often been criticised for a perceived lack of effort or interest, which is something that absolutely cannot be levelled against McTominay. In the game against Liverpool, he seemed to pull his hamstring when assisting Marcus Rashford’s 112th-minute equaliser, and still, five minutes later he could be seen sprinting into the Liverpool box once again. Five minutes after that, he wins the defensive header that leads to Amad Diallo’s dramatic winner.


He is also an incredibly versatile player, which further increases his value to the United squad. This season alone he has featured as a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder, an advanced playmaker, and a centre-forward. Throughout his career, he has been used in both a single and double pivot, and was regularly selected to play as a centre-back for Scotland before manager Steve Clark realised his value as a goalscorer.


This is a testament to how much his managers have trusted him. During Jose Mourinho’s tenure as United manager, the Portuguese actually created his own brand new award – ‘Manager’s Player of the Year’ – just so he could give it to Scott McTominay. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes no effort to hide his admiration for the 27-year-old either, and the Scotsman has been relied upon by every manager he has played under, including Ten Hag, Clark, and Ralf Rangnick.


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McTominay is reminiscent of many United cult heroes of the past. Sir Alex Ferguson was always sure to have players in the squad who could accept not being a guaranteed starter, but who were always ready to do a job and give 100% for the team. Think Park Ji-sung, Darren Fletcher, and Danny Welbeck. They might not be the most technically gifted players or the guys who sell the most shirts, but they could be relied upon in key moments and were crucial to the team’s success.


While McTominay might have his limitations, he is an academy graduate and Manchester United fan who can always be relied upon to give everything for the team and the fans. He has a unique profile which makes him lethal in certain circumstances, and has the versatility to fill a number of roles in when required. The question for Ten Hag and Manchester United is this: could you replace that if you sell him for £30 million? In today’s market, perhaps not.


By: Jake Lane / @jakerslane

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matthew Peters – Man Utd