Opening day of the Premier League season came a week late for Manchester United but defeat to Crystal Palace was hardly a huge shock to the world.
United were well beaten at Old Trafford as former winger Wilfried Zaha scored twice in a controversial clash that was the London side leave as 3-1 winners. Andros Townsend opened the scoring with a tap in at the back post, before Wilfried Zaha scored a re-taken penalty after David De Gea had saved Jordan Ayew’s initial effort but was deemed to have stepped off his line. Donny Van De Beek came off the bench to score and give United hope, but Zaha took the burden upon himself and scored a fine solo goal to wrap up the points.
Eyebrows were raised immediately when the line-ups came out though, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær opted to field a right-flank of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Daniel James while Scott McTominay was picked in central midfield ahead of Van De Beek, Fred and Nemanja Matic.
As the Reds surrendered control of the midfield early on in the game, all eyes were on Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes – and rightly so. Those two are the talismen of the side and are the undoubted quality in that area of the pitch. But Scott McTominay did absolutely nothing to help them.
I want to make this clear before I go any further too, McTominay was by no means the sole reason that Manchester United lost the game and wasn’t the only player who performed horrendously. The only players that can come out of that game with their heads held high are David De Gea and Donny Van De Beek. He does however seem to avoid flack more than most.
McTominay was deployed in a holding midfield position, something that Ole Gunnar Solskjær suggested is his long-term role in the squad alongside Nemanja Matic. But he offered zero to the side, in either direction.
Defensively, he was open. His positioning was awful, he lefts gaps constantly, he struggled to win possession back and committed fouls. Going forward, which is a more natural role for him, he didn’t create any chances, lost possession countless times and failed to make any sort of positive impact. He runs a lot though.
When people praise McTominay the first thing that comes out of their mouth is usually something that off the ball. He runs a lot, he’s vocal, he’s passionate, he cares. That’s great, but he’s a footballer first and foremost and he’s not good at it. So often you see him move behind an opposition player to avoid receiving the ball but constantly moving to make out he’s trying to create angles. Even more often you seem him receive the ball deep and either give it straight back to whoever it came from, or just play the ball sideways. No progression, no threat, no quality. Not even vibes.
Despite having Pogba, Fernandes and Van De Beek as midfield options this is what Manchester United fans talk about when they question pundits who say that the Dutchman wasn’t a necessary signing and why they need a defensive midfield signing. McTominay will turn 24 before the year ends and it’s quite clear that he isn’t and won’t be good enough for where Manchester United say they aspire to be in the football ladder.
The club need to stop blindly trusting players simply because they have a good attitude and come from the academy and start judging them on their actual football ability.