Tony Cascarino fancies 6ft 4in tall Scott McTominay as a centre-half. But Scotland boss Steve Clarke sees him more as the country’s jack-of-all-midfield-trades.
As he looked ahead to the emergence of the Manchester United regular as an ever-more-important part of the national team’s future, the Dark Blues boss insisted that doesn’t mean he believes he will be master of none.
“Scott is someone who has shown when he has been picked for Scotland that he does well for us,” said Clarke.
“He is a big, strong athletic boy with a really good attitude for the game.
“He’s still only 22 years old, so you still have to give him time to grow as a footballer.
“But, without question, he is developing well.
“He has nailed down a spot in the Manchester United team and, while I don’t want to heap too much pressure on him, has shown when he is with us he has a lot of good attributes.
“I think he is a good presence to have around the place. He is someone who speaks well.”
Former Celtic striker-turned-pundit Cascarino voiced his opinion about the best way for Manchester United to use the Scot being in the centre of defence on radio, and it raised eyebrows south of the border.
Given a regular game in midfield by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, McTominay’s game has improved markedly.
Where last season he averaged 28 passes a match, in 2019-20 he is up over 50.
As Clarke argues, too, the midfielder is showing plenty of versatility as it is, without considering him at centre-half.
“I have not actually seen Scott play in defence. But for me he is a midfielder,” he said of the player, who looks a certain starter in Saturday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Cyprus.
“When I say that, though, I mean someone who can play any sort of midfield role.
“He is box to box. We saw that against San Marino. He likes to bomb forward, getting into that inside position.
“But he can also do the defensive job. In the away game against Belgium, back when I started, he and Kenny McLean gave us a good defensive anchor to our formation.
“So I’d say he’s a modern-day midfielder in terms of his ability to fill the different roles, which is the type that is very useful for managers to have.”
Especially as there are others also emerging as talents who could not only get Scotland to Euro 2020, via March’s Nation League play-offs, but also flourish in the Finals themselves.
Manchester United are sweet on the idea of uniting McTominay and John McGinn at club level, with Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly having pushed for them to do all they can to bring him in from Aston Villa.
While Villa’s £50-million valuation of the former Hibs and St Mirren midfielder is likely to delay, if not KO, the chances of that move happening, Clarke has no such impediment to building a team around the pair.
Again, his enthusiasm is clear.
“I can’t say John is reaching a stage where he is impossible to leave out, because then I disappoint another six or seven players,” said the Scotland supremo.
“At the same time, he is clearly in a great run of form this season.
“He is doing really well for his club in the Premier League and doing well for his country, with his hat-trick against San Marino a highlight.
“Long may it continue!”
It says it all about the lopsided nature of Scotland’s playing resources that the national manager was able to view the loss to voluntary retirement of West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass almost as more of a help than a hindrance.
“We have fantastic midfield players just now, and I do get people asking why I don’t just almost fill my team with them,” Clarke went on.
“Generally I’m not really a fan of shoe-horning people into positions. But with Robert retiring, there is now a chance for Ryan Christie to play off the right-hand side coming in.
“He is another player who is having a terrific time of it. He has been a big part of Celtic’s success this season.
“James Forrest can play there and Ryan Fraser’s back in the Bournemouth team after a little spell out and playing better.
“So going into these ties against Cyprus and Kazakhstan, we have plenty of players who are in a good place.
“That’s great because it is important we get positive results to try to build momentum for the play-offs.”
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