Familiar names lead the top scorer charts in Euro 2024 qualifying. Rasmus Hojlund, Romelu Lukaku and, er, Scott McTominay each sit on six goals apiece at the time of writing as they seek to help their respective nation book their spot at next summer's tournament in Germany. The former pair's inclusion at the top of the leaderboard shouldn't come as a surprise, yet McTominay's inclusion has certainly raised eyebrows.
After their 3-0 win at Cyprus, the Tartan Army top Group A having won all five matches so far, including an impressive 2-0 win over Spain back in March. McTominay has been key in their 100% start to qualification. The Manchester United man has been directly involved in seven of their 12 goals, and has a better WhoScored rating (8.04) than any other Scotland player.
In addition, McTominay has been named the player of the match in three of his five appearances for Steve Clarke's side with the 26-year-old morphing into McSauce for the national team. If anything, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag can learn on a lesson or two from Clarke on how best to maximise the midfielder's talent.
There's no denying that McTominay has struggled to live up to expectations at Old Trafford. Years of mismanagement at United has seen the Scot struggle to stamp his authority on the squad, often bemoaned for his failure to provide sufficient protection to the defence alongside Fred. The additions of Christian Eriksen and Casemiro last summer pushed McTominay further down the pecking order at United, while the recent signings of Mason Mount and Sofyan Amrabat is expected to limit playing time further. Indeed, McTominay has registered just seven league minutes of game time.
The issue is that McTominay has been unfairly pigeon-holed as primarily a holding midfielder for his club, and his development has been minimal as a result. Rather, Clarke has unleashed McTominay in the final third, and he's played a key role in Scotland's push for European Championship so far.
As such, McTominay has had more shots (14) in Scotland's Euro 2024 qualification campaign so far than he has managed for Manchester United (13) since the start of the 2022/23 Premier League season. He's not restricted to anchoring the midfield, but rather free to push forward and support the offensive, which he does so to an impressive standard. Considering Scotland's goal woes in recent years, McTominay's return for the Tartan Army this year alone is cause for optimism.
⚽️ No player has been directly involved in more goals than Scott McTominay (7 - 6 goals, 1 assist) in Euro 2024 qualifying pic.twitter.com/w3UlQLjyi9— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 10, 2023
And having excelled for Scotland with the freedom to push on, there is reason to believe he can perform a similar role for United. The decision to rebuff West Ham's efforts to sign McTominay means he'll be at the club until at least January and Ten Hag could do a lot worse than unleash the Scotland star in the final third than task him with protecting the defence. That's a job for Casemiro and new addition Amrabat, so at least there is less onus on Ten Hag to use McTominay as a holding midfielder in his favoured 4-2-3-1 setup.
While he's unlikely to oust Bruno Fernandes in the number 10 role, Ten Hag would at least have some tactical flexibility to utilise were he to use McTominay in a similar fashion for United. With the Champions League kicking off this month, Ten Hag will need to utilise the players at his disposal, and McTominay, while seemingly out of favour for United in recent months, could yet find his way back into the reckoning, especially if the Dutch boss can find a way to coax out the midfielder's national team displays for his club.
When it seemed as though there was no place in the United squad for McTominay, his Scotland showings suggest otherwise. Ten Hag could certainly take a page out of Clarke's book in order to maximise the midfield options in his squad.