South Africa

Manchester United can benefit from Scott McTominay example with Scotland – Tyrone Marshall


This has been an international week dominated by talk of citizenship, of what it means to play for one country or another, how players ‘choose’ their national allegiances and whether they should be able to swap at any stage of that journey.

It was the soundtrack to the build-up to England’s friendly with the Republic of Ireland, particularly the presence of Jack Grealish and Declan Rice in Gareth Southgate’s squad. Two players born in England, but who had played for the Republic of Ireland through to the Under-21s, in the case of Grealish, and even as far as winning three senior caps for Rice.

Both, in the end, decided to play for the country of their birth, to varying degrees of angst from across the Irish Sea, but this has always been a two-way relationship when it comes to nationality between the two countries.

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Perhaps the most interesting example of the concept wasn’t actually involved in that game at Wembley on Thursday night, however. Scott McTominay was born in Lancaster so could have played for England, in a position that nobody has made their own for the Three Lions, but he qualifies for Scotland through his dad and insists he’s always wanted to play for the Tartan Army.

“I wanted to play for Scotland — and I always have done, since I was a young boy, so it was an incredibly proud moment when he [Scotland manager Alex McLeish] did call me up,” McTominay has said previously.

He hasn’t exactly looked like a player going through the motions during his 18 caps to date, wondering whether he’s made the right decision.

McTominay committed to Scotland at a time when they were struggling to even come close to qualifying for major tournaments, their wait for a return to the glory days of Euro 96 and France 98 seemingly interminable.

But McTominay quickly emerged as a leader for Scotland, just as he has with United, and he’s played a major part in ending their 22-year wait to return to a major tournament.

Repurposed as a centre back by Steve Clarke, McTominay has been outstanding for Scotland recently and scored penalties in the play-off shootout victories against Israel at Hampden Park and in the dramatic final in Serbia on Thursday night.

Anybody seeing the sheer delight on McTominay’s face when David Marshall saved the final penalty can be left in no doubt what it means to him to play for Scotland. Now he will get to do it in the European Championships, and against some of his United teammates at Wembley next June.

Not only is McTominay again demonstrating his leadership skills with the Tartan Army, but his positional switch could benefit United in the future.

“Before, whenever the manager of Scotland asked me if it was a role I was comfortable with, I was like: ‘Of course’. Whatever the manager asks you to do, you do,” he said before the play-off win in Serbia.

“But I could not remember the last time I played there, which I said to him, but it’s a different role I’m enjoying.”

United entered the international break by winning what was arguably their most important match of the season at Everton on Saturday.

The under-pressure Reds came from behind to beat the Toffees thanks to Bruno Fernandes’ double and Edinson Cavani’s first goal for United.

United have a two-week break with many of their stars heading off on international duty – we’ll be keeping tabs on how they all perform, and on preparations for their next Premier League match against West Brom.

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The ease with which McTominay adapted to the change and the lack of fuss he showed when asked to move is an example of how valuable a squad member he is, for club and country.

Every time a new United midfielder arrives it’s supposed to spell the end for the academy graduate, but every time he rises to the new challenge.

It’s no coincidence that after United’s low point of the season, the 6-1 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned to McTominay, who has started four successive Premier League games since then. It was no coincidence that he came off the bench in Istanbul 10 days ago, providing some leadership during a dismal display and it was his voice that boomed out around the Fatih Terim Stadium in the second half.

McTominay might not be the most talented player in the United squad, or even the Scotland squad, but he’s the kind of character every squad needs, and he can still play a bit, whether in midfield or in defence. He’s invaluable to his club and country.


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