It is every manager’s dream to have a selection dilemma bestowed on them because of a player’s impressive form, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now has one which is more difficult to solve than most others.
There was little of note to take from the win over West Ham in the FA Cup on Tuesday night as Manchester United laboured to a deserved, yet tedious, 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
Few if any fringe players took the opportunity to make a case for themselves featuring more regularly and United looked short of ideas all around as they struggled to find a way through a stubborn West Ham defence.
In the end it was one piece of creativity which proved to be the difference, a goal born in the academy as Marcus Rashford teed up Scott McTominay to rifle in the only goal of the match.
It marked the third match in succession which the Scotland international has found the back of the net in, taking his tally to seven goals for the season so far.
Bruno Fernandes and Rashford are the only two players to have scored more, with 18 and 16 respectively.
Speaking after the win Solskjaer hinted the Scotland international could be set for a more advanced role going forward, given his development in the club’s academy as a centre-forward.
“Of course it is (a healthy habit) from a defensive midfielder,” the manager told MUTV. “We will have to unleash him and release him forward because he is a goal threat in the box and he’s got a good strike in him.”
The fact the 24-year-old now has more goals than Paul Pogba, Fred and Donny van de Beek combined this season is certainly argument for him to play in a more advanced role more frequently, something which highlights a wider issue of his position in the long run.
Over the past year McTominay has silenced those who doubted his United credentials, not only proving himself to be worthy of a squad place, but also proving himself as a player who deserves to start regularly.
The issue is that if United really do want to become genuine title contenders they will also need to transform their midfield to a standard which can not only nullify the very best opposition, but match them toe-to-toe.
In the long run United’s most effective holding partnership of Fred and McTominay isn’t an obvious solution to accomplish that, with one of them needed in a more recognised defensive role while the other pushes further forward to support the attack.
The recent scoring exploits of the Scot certainly make him a leading contender for the mobile role, but soon United will need to decide whether or not they push McTominay into a more advanced position or look to utilise his defensive attributes as a deeper option.
At international level Scotland have already looked to utilise him as a centre-back at times, as have United, something which could end up contributing to something of an identity crisis. At a pivotal age in his career the midfielder should be thinking about which position might suit him best.
An excellent attitude coupled with genuine potential make McTominay a contender to be a future United captain – perhaps the only thing uncertain is what position he’ll accomplish that playing in.