The surprise inclusion of Scott McTominay in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United team selection at Chelsea speaks volumes of his importance to his manager. “He only trained yesterday,” explained Solskjaer ahead of kick-off, having hurried back the Scotsman after ruling him out in his press conference a matter of days ago.
In the first half at Stamford Bridge, it was easy to see exactly why Solskjaer was so desperate to call upon the midfielder.
He clattered into Mason Mount to set the tone for the game and made his presence felt in the centre of the park.
Although the rivalry is no longer what it once was, McTominay is a throwback and will have brought pleasure to the likes of Roy Keane watching on from the Sky Sports studio.
He does not have bags of technical quality – as evident when he wasted a late United counter-attack – but his physicality, work rate and drive make United a better team when he’s in command.
JUST IN: Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes could have perfect new partner in crime next season
Mourinho liked that bite though and threw him into the United team for their Champions League last 16 clash at Sevilla.
It was a huge vote of confidence and the start of a special personal bond between Mourinho and McTominay, before he was eventually dismissed from the hot-seat in December 2018.
It’s fair to say McTominay hasn’t always been in favour under Solskjaer but this season has been his finest hour bar none.
He’s now part of Solskjaer’s newly assembled spine that has slowly driven United up the table and closer to or above their other rivals.
When he’s on song, United usually are too and this season has proved he’s a lot better than many give him credit for.
He stung the palms of Edouard Mendy in the second half against Chelsea and his taste for goals this season was evident as United went in search of the opener.
McTominay has already matched last season’s Premier League goal tally of four and more are likely to follow.
The academy graduate is no Rolls Royce but his effectiveness and consistency makes him a more than valuable asset to United.
He did ever so slightly let himself down in the closing stages of the match, as he squandered the chance to put the ball on a plate for his team-mates to earn all three points but besides that, this was an impressive performance.
In a team that has severely lacked quality in centre midfield since the departure of Michael Carrick, McTominay is now giving United more control and steadiness in the middle of the park.
His importance to Solskjaer is a testament to his attitude and determination to improve, at a club where it’s sink or swim for the young players knocking on the first-team door.