When Manchester United signed Nemanja Matic from Chelsea in 2017 in a deal that stretched to up to £40m, many Reds fans were excited to see the acquisition of a disciplined, ball-playing holding midfielder to replace Michael Carrick, who was coming towards the end of his 12-year stint in a red shirt at that time. The signing of the former Serbian international was deemed a good one by many, yet some were critical of the move; supporters theorised that signing a 28-year-old was bound to leave United short in the future, as Matic’s physical decline was surely inevitable. Fast forward to the present day, that theory has come to pass. Even though the Old Trafford turf is being graced by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Bruno Fernandes, the lack of a sitting midfielder is costing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer success in the eyes of the majority of fans.
However, if the words of The Athletic’s Manchester United correspondent Laurie Whitwell are to be believed, the club’s Norwegian manager believes he may have found the solution to the problem in the form of Scott McTominay. It is common knowledge around the club that the coaching staff rate the Scottish international immensely, so it comes as no surprise that assistant coaches are working with him to be the solution to the issue. To quote Whitwell, “Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna are working with Scott McTominay on the discipline and passing required to operate as a sole sitter”.Embed from Getty Images
Such reports will create a division in the opinion of fans. Whilst it can be argued that McTominay is a hard working, honest player who gives his all for the shirt who has a strong physical stature, it could credibly be said that a specialist should have been bought in the Summer if the manager knew the team needed one, as the academy graduate has been tried there before with rather unsuccessful output. It isn’t outlandish to suggest that McTominay will be 25 in December, and the idea of trying to train him into being a specialist sitter mid-way through his career is an inept one.
One thing that most Reds fans will agree on, though, is moving away from Fred being the starting defensive-midfielder. Following a sublime period of form in the early stages of 2020, where the midfield was down to its bare bones in the midst of an injury crisis, the Brazilian has never been able to find his best form again in red and white colours. The 28-year-old has become renowned this season for being poor in ball possession and inefficient in tracking the runners, often leaving the defence exposed on the counterattack.Embed from Getty Images
Lots are of the opinion that Nemanja Matic is the best holding midfielder that Solskjaer has at his disposal, but at the age of 33, the former Benfica man is probably incapable of playing two games a week. This is likely to be the case, with the manager often opting to bring Matic on in the final 20 minutes of matches to grab hold of the midfield with maximum fitness levels.
All in all, Manchester United fans ultimately want the same thing, and that is for the team to be winning games of football. Whilst opinions on Fred, Matic and McTominay will always differ, there is no better outcome for the manager and fans alike than the adaptation of McTominay into a holding midfielder. If the club were to sign a specialist in the area, it would likely be in the Summer of 2022, so in the meantime, the best possible outcome is that McTominay can fill the void. The manager rates him highly and he is of course an academy lad. With Matic unable to play twice in a week and the Fred experiment at defensive midfield failing, it makes sense that McTominay is probably the best bet. With him held in such high esteem by the coaches, the Scot featuring as the sitter is the probable outcome. Fans should probably try and grit their teeth and just hope for the best, as hope is all we have!
United face a tough run of games after the international break, so fans will have to wait and see as to what the manager has in mind.