A look at Scott McTominay's first-team rise under Jose Mourinho
With record signing Paul Pogba drifting in and out of the first-team, one player has risen to prominence over the past few weeks. The selection of Manchester United's academy prospect Scott McTominay ahead of Pogba raised a few eyebrows prior to kick-off in midweek against Sevilla, but there's a justified explanation for the midfielder's inclusion.
Mourinho has gushed about McTominay regularly in recent weeks, hailing him as a "genius" and "fundamental" following their home win over Huddersfield at the start of February. Unsurprisingly encouraged by his development, he also revealed just how the 21-year-old gained his trust to earn a promotion into United's senior plans.
"I think I don't give trust for free," Mourinho stated. "I think it's the other way round, I don't think it's about the manager to trust the player, it's the player to make the manager trust him, is as simple as that."
"Even now after I would say maybe eight starts, something like that, he has a lot to learn but since the first moment, he was learning that is the way to perform. Of course, he will have bad matches and make mistakes and be on the bench and not be selected but I know when I want him to play I know the kind of mentality, the kind of player I am developing, I know the qualities that will make him a really good player."
The Lancaster-born midfielder made his first-team debut off the substitutes' bench during their away defeat by Arsenal nine months ago. Since the start of this campaign, he's made seven starts - three of which have come in United's last five fixtures.
Andreas Pereira's season-long loan move to Valencia saw a golden opportunity for him to secure a breakthrough after impressing at youth level. It would not come as a surprise if he does receive his first senior international call-up to the Scotland squad next month, with interest from England still a possibility.
Simple yet effective
McTominay did precisely what was asked of him in midweek during United's away Champions League clash, in a tense affair which could have gone either way.
From kick-off, his main responsibilities were to close down Sevilla's midfield duo of Ever Banega and Steven N'Zonzi by being in their way and frustrating them enough to release possession elsewhere across the pitch, as opposed to regularly playing through the middle.
Without being influential in a defensive nor attack-minded sense, McTominay provided the presence in midfield which Mourinho was keen to see. From this display, you could definitely see parallels with him and a certain Darren Fletcher, in that only the manager seems to see something special in the player himself. McTominay is yet to struggle or make any memorable mistakes thus far, though he's received criticism for being keen to avoid taking risks.
Naturally, you could never argue that McTominay was a more talented player than Pogba. However, in a United side packed with players who like to take risks, it's becoming increasingly clear that there's a certain worth in having a player whose primitive trait is simplicity itself.