The most significant thing Erik ten Hag will bring to Manchester United is a level-headed study of the first-team group.
It’s easy to be pessimistic after a bad season and discount the abilities of every member of the club. However, it is occasionally necessary to take a step back and appreciate the solid foundations that United still has in place.
Ten Hag’s arrival should offer new energy and ideas to a jaded side, and if he can sort out the attitude issues at Old Trafford, the task at hand will not be as daunting as some have suggested. Much has been made of the player’s Ten Hag could add to the club, but those currently at his disposal who will form the backbone of his side next season will be just as essential.
Making better use of the current incumbents will be a key distinction. In the past, United has been guilty of overplaying important players and being so reliant on them that they suffer, while other players have been overlooked because they did not have the same trust in the management.
Scott McTominay is one player who has suffered from overuse. The 25-year-old has always been a polarizing figure among supporters, with his fiery demeanor frequently used against him when the club fails to deliver on the field.
It is simple to highlight McTominay’s limitations while discussing him. He lacks a fixed position, isn’t a competent passer of the ball, and lacks the energy to play at full throttle for the duration of a match. He does, however, have some redeeming features.
He’s a confident ball dribbler, he draws a lot of fouls, he’s good at getting back possession, he’s versatile, and he cares just as much as the rest of the United team.
“You throw him on the field, and he produces,” says the coach “In January, incoming Ten Hag assistant Steve McClaren told talkSPORT. “He plays for Manchester United seven or eight days a week. That is what distinguishes a Manchester United player.
“He breaks up play, he’s box-to-box, he’s got energy, attitude, can deal with the ball, gets into the box, and can score goals; he’s doing a great job.”
McTominay is an excellent squad player in the mold of Nicky Butt, Park Ji-Sung, and Darren Fletcher before him, but his club’s inability to construct a midfield ahead of him has exposed him. Ten Hag needs to break free from the constricting Fred and McTominay axis next season, but just because they won’t be starting together doesn’t mean they’re no longer useful to the club.
In a perfect scenario, the Scotland international would come off the bench to impact the game, similar to how Nemanja Matic does now and could be utilized in key games to help pack out the midfield against sides that control possession and must be pressed into unforced errors.
Ten Hag may use McTominay as his own big-game player, similar to how Sir Alex Ferguson would resort to his unsung heroes in the biggest games of the season.
The fact that he already has McClaren’s public support is further evidence of the role he still has to play at United under the new manager, but with the goal of adding at least one new midfielder this summer, a bench spot appears to be the most likely answer.
McTominay is no longer a starter, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the table entirely.