Premier League 2019-20: Scott McTominay injury could be a cause of concern for Manchester United
The feel-good factor returned to Old Trafford on Sunday when Manchester United beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 in one of the more convincing home performances by the Red Devils. It is difficult to argue against Ole Gunnar Solskjær when he says that they could have easily scored more than three goals.
The mood turned sour when deep into injury time, Scott McTominay hurt his ankle. He looked in real pain and had to be helped off the pitch, going down the tunnel on a stretcher. The Scot is not one of those who would stay down unless it was something serious.
At the beginning of the 2019-20 season, had you said that McTominay would be so important to this squad, it would have been laughed off. But now, his importance and contributions cannot be understated.
United have had only six goalscorers this season. I say 'only' six because Liverpool have fifteen! McTominay has chipped in with two goals against Arsenal and Norwich from central midfield when he wasn't expected to be a goal threat. On top of that, the 6'4" academy product is a threat in both the boxes thanks to his incredible stamina and strength, which allows him to cover every blade of grass. It is unusual for a player of such an imposing frame to be so mobile.
McTominay is tidy on the ball too. However, having watched United play this season, his effect on the team has extended beyond mere statistics of goals and distance covered. Coming through the academy, he understands what it means to play for United. The 'cultural reboot' mentioned by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is personified by him; humble off the pitch, arrogant on it, getting into tussles with the opposition to defend his teammates. Pay close attention and you hear him barking orders to senior members of the squad, organising the team as a whole like a midfield general.
He was introduced into the first-team setup in 2017-18 by José Mourinho. At the time, it was seen as a PR move by the Portuguese manager to keep the fans onside. His progression was so unexpected that even club insiders were surprised. He was known to be a decent player, but not nearly as gifted as Angel Gomes or Tahith Chong.
For José, that was precisely the point. He needed someone to do the dirty work for the team, carrying out the manager's instructions to the letter. It ended up with him winning the inaugural Manager's Player of the Year award in his first season.
With Paul Pogba out until early December, he has taken on even more responsibility on his shoulders and delivered consistently. However, United's Player of the Month for September and October may be out for anywhere between two to eight weeks, according to Solskjær. The injury comes at an inopportune moment, with things starting to fall into place for the club. The fans and Solskjær will hope that the scans on Monday don't any show serious damage to his ankle.
United desperately need him in the push for top 4 and Europa League glory. The player known as the teacher's pet in his debut season has become the class favourite.