Scott McTominay: Manchester United's 'best player' leading the way as Jose Mourinho praises him
The midfielder was labelled "almost undroppable" by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, following his return from injury
By Paul Gilmour
Last Updated: 14/12/19 7:05am
Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour analyses Scott McTominay's contribution to Manchester United's upturn in form, and Jose Mourinho's nurturing of the Scotland international during his time in charge at Old Trafford.
In the depths of the Allianz Arena in Munich this week, Mourinho was asked if criticism of his approach to young players was unfair.
With that familiar steely stare, he proceeded to highlight two names in a bid to dispel what he clearly believes is a myth.
"Scott McTominay is only the best player at Manchester United," was Mourinho's emphatic response while also using "one of the best defenders in the world" in Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane as another example.
"Yes, it's fair criticism," he added somewhat sarcastically having watched his former player grow into one of Manchester United's most consistent performers and influential leaders.
McTominay has been effusive in his praise for Mourinho and he is also excelling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who labelled the Scotland midfielder "almost undroppable" after he returned from injury two weeks ahead of schedule to face Tottenham and Manchester City.
In a season where the attitudes of others have been questioned in the media, United have a player buying into every aspect of the club's philosophy.
He enjoys engaging with the supporters, he has embraced many events with club sponsors and crucially he is showing leadership qualities at a time United are in transition.
During his recent absence from the team because of the ankle injury sustained against Brighton, his response offered an interesting insight into his attitude.
Under the watchful eye of the strength and conditioning coach, former United player Michael Clegg, McTominay was in the gym almost every day.
Ankle rehab aside he spent a lot of time working on other aspects of his physical condition including core work, with a clear focus on returning for those two crucial games.
Clegg's father Mick, himself a previous power and development coach at United, worked closely with Cristiano Ronaldo at Carrington and helped the Portgual international drastically improve in this area.
Sources say McTominay has always had that thirst for self-improvement and the period of the injury did, therefore, become an opportunity rather than a setback.
In the lead up to United's clash with Spurs, the 23-year old had just one light football session but the gym work for two solid weeks beforehand clearly helped him slot straight back in.
McTominay played 90 minutes in both games as United registered impressive victories, first against his former manager Mourinho before the eye-catching three points against champions and rivals City.
The stats are favourable too. He has won more direct duels than any other United midfielder and features in the top five in this category for the entire league at this stage of the season.
He is third in the list of Premier League midfielders for fouls won and the number of times he has won back possession for his team is up there with Chelsea's in-form pair Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.
Of the midfielders to have played a minimum of 1000 Premier League minutes, his running stats are on a similar level to Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, while his influence in the Manchester United team has been recognised by winning three of the previous five player of the month awards at the club.
Mourinho's "best player at Manchester United" comment certainly carries weight.
The current Spurs boss saw enough in McTominay's breakthrough campaign to create a previously non-existent end of season award.
With reports of fresh contract talks, it could be United's most significant piece of business this season. All the signs point towards him continuing to thrive, and you would not bet against more awards following.