Scotland fans must find themselves experiencing a sense of deja vu. No, not because Alex…
With Alex McLeish set to name his first Scotland squad later today, football fans across the country will turn their attention towards the national team to see which players make the cut. One man we know will (almost) certainly be included is Scott McTominay, the latest youngster to break into the Manchester United first team.
McLeish has been very publicly courting McTominay and had to fend off interest from England to ensure the 21-year-old dons the dark blue of Scotland on the international stage. A series of impressive performances has seen the central midfielder hold onto his place in Jose Mourinho’s starting eleven ahead of seasoned internationals such as Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini.
While there’s been a lot of coverage in the media about Scott McTominay, we still don’t actually know too much about him. What’s he good at? What does he need to work on? What’s his playing style?
We’ve had a look at the numbers in a bid to see what McTominay is really like. Most of the Tartan Army will be intrigued when he makes his debut – here’s what to expect from United’s academy graduate. (Note: all stats are based on McTominay’s performances in Premier League and Champions League fixtures).
First thing’s first. McTominay has been deployed in central midfield, usually fairly deep. Physically, the youngster is tall – measuring at just shy of two metres – but his role in the United team goes beyond simply using his aerial presence. McTominay is tasked with distributing the ball and advancing play towards the opposition goal.
The above chart highlights the effectiveness of McTominay’s passing, as well as the types of pass he’s playing. As we can see, the midfielder’s role in the United team is clear – he averages only 1.4 long balls per match and doesn’t even attempt through balls or crosses. Key passes (passes that lead to a shot) are rare. However, he does manage 31 passes per game on average – with a remarkable success rate of 89%.
What this tells us is that Scotland fans hoping to see McTominay feeding strikers with killer passes will be disappointed. Instead, the 21-year-old is likely to be a steadying presence in midfield – playing simple passes, but playing them well. Comparisons with Darren Fletcher might well be lazy because of the two players’ Old Trafford background, but in this instance, they help illustrate this aspect of McTominay’s play.
So in possession, then, McTominay is fairly neat. Off the ball, however, it’s a different story. The midfielder manages 0.5 tackles per game and only 1.1 interceptions. This means McTominay can’t be relied upon to win possession back – if he starts for Scotland, he’ll need to be paired alongside someone capable of doing so if our midfield’s not to be overrun.
Having said that, it’s rare to see an opposition player dribble past McTominay. In fact, this only happens 0.6 times per 90; in other words, once every 150 minutes. This is where his physicality comes into play – McTominay’s presence, if not his tackling ability, is proving effective for Mourinho.
McTominay’s height could prove to be a useful tool for McLeish to deploy. Aerially, his stats are pretty good. The Man United player wins 65% of his aerial duels – just shy of two out of three attempts. He’s proved effective at this at a high level too: he attempts 1.7 more aerial challenges per game in the Champions League than in the Premier League, albeit with a lower success rate of 54%. Still though, he’s winning them more often than not.
It’s easy to see why Mourinho holds McTominay in high regard. His skill-set fits the Portuguese’s tactics almost perfectly. He slots in nicely in a deep role in midfield where he can play low-risk passes without the responsibility of being the midfield’s primary ball-winner, with the added bonus of his height. This is good news for McLeish, who has always been a fairly cautious coach. A similar role in Big Eck’s Scotland team is likely to be up for grabs – McTominay has as good a chance as anyone at making the role his own.