A ‘special character’. That’s how Jose Mourinho once described Scott McTominay.
Some United players have faced criticism for below-par performances, but McTominay can hold his head high.
Against Arsenal he was his hard-working self and scored his first goal at Old Trafford for Man United.
His long-range strike whistled past a stationary Bernd Leno and into the top of the net, though Gunners midfielder Granit Xhaka has been criticised for allegedly ‘ducking’ out the way of the goal-bound shot.
It seems Mourinho always knew how much it all meant to the Scotland international. After deploying him as a makeshift centre-half during a 3-1 defeat to West Ham last September, the former United boss praised the player’s attitude.
“He is a special character,” said Mourinho, who gave McTominay his senior debut in May 2017.
“He is a special personality and a team in a negative moment needs this kind of mentality that Scott McTominay has.”
Last season United missed out on a place in the top four and, consequently, a place in next season’s Champions League, by drawing with bottom club Huddersfield in May.
Afterwards, McTominay, who opened the scoring at the John Smith’s Stadium, was captured alone on the bench looking dejected at full-time.
When asked if other Manchester United players had the same attitude as McTominay, Mourinho replied: “Not all of them.
“But every player is different, every player is a different person. Scott McTominay is a kid with a special character. He is young but he is brave so he is a special kid.”
Darren Fletcher, one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most reliable servants, believes McTominay has grown into Man United’s leader and is setting the example the rest of the club’s players must follow.
“He looks like the first name on the team sheet,” Fletcher told talkSPORT. “From the games I’ve seen, like Leicester, it was a bit flat and he went thundering into a tackle and got the crowd up.
“He’s a little bit old school. He’s got drive and he gets on the ball and doesn’t hide.
“His goal [against Arsenal] was fantastic and he’s starting to find his voice as well; you can see his arms pointing at people and different things like that. It’s fantastic to see.”
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Against Barcelona in the Champions League last season, the midfielder came away with a lot of credit for his display in the 1-0 defeat.
He was superb in the middle of the park, winning the ball, recycling possession, and, most importantly, remaining calm and composed against elite opposition.
It was considered something of a coming of age performance from McTominay, who, incredibly, received the most praise from L’Equipe.
The French magazine is notorious for its ruthless player ratings, and the seven awarded to him was a true sign of his excellence.
Mourinho was watching the game and thought Barca were not their usual stylish selves because of McTominay.
“I think United had one player that was responsible for that because I think Scott McTominay in midfield he was like what I used to call – but when I use this expression it’s obviously in the total positive sense of the word – a mad dog. Afraid of nobody. Imposing his respect.
“Pressing really hard with a huge range of movement a huge area of pressing.
“Pressing higher and creating problems in Barcelona building up then really aggressive on the duels.”