Scott McTominay promised to keep improving and repay Jose Mourinho’s faith after the Manchester United manager selected him ahead of Paul Pogba for Wednesday’s Champions League goalless draw with Sevilla.
The 21-year-old academy graduate lined up alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrrera in a midfield three, with club record signing Pogba left among the substitutes despite being fully fit to play.
Mourinho suggested Pogba’s omission was a result of him missing Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Huddersfield Town. The France international sat out of United’s 2-0 victory with an illness, though his manager claimed on Wednesday it had been the player’s ‘decision’ not to play.
Pogba ultimately played the majority of the stalemate with Sevilla, coming on as a 17th-minute substitute for the injured Ander Herrera, but he struggled once introduced and could not inspire a lacklustre United side to a first-leg victory in the last-16.
David de Gea was the visitors’ man-of-the-match at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, denying Sevilla with several spectacular saves, but McTominay put in a creditable performance that Mourinho hailed as “brilliant”.
McTominay now intends to push for a regular place in Mourinho’s starting line-up and feels he owes a debt to the manager after being handed a chance to impress.
“Obviously it’s so important for me to repay the manager whenever he puts trust in me in these games,” he said.
“I thought the whole team tonight put in a real shift for the manager and I think going back to Old Trafford we’re in a good position. I wouldn’t say the best position because we didn’t win, but we’re in a good position because we can go back and fight for every ball and hopefully we can progress to the quarter-finals.”
McTominay added: “It’s all to play for. 0-0, anything can happen. We’re confident against any team we play. Hopefully we go back to Old Trafford and we can go through there.”
Some young players may buckle under the pressure of replacing the club’s record signing and starting a Champions League knock-out tie so early in their career, but McTominay relished the opportunity to play on European football’s greatest stage.
The Lancaster-born midfielder, who is eligible to represent Scotland as well as England at international level, now has an appetite for more of the same.
“Big nights, big occasions. That’s what you want in your career,” he told MUTV. “They’re the things that make or break you as a footballer, and I feel like it’s how you deal with them situations that define you as a player and as a character on the pitch.
“Obviously nerves are only natural. It’s how you deal with them nerves and it’s how you put that on a football pitch. Once you’re out there, you just forget about it - it’s a game of football on a pitch that you’ve played on before, so, you just take it from there, want to play your game and that is it.”
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