AT the start of the season it seemed an unlikely combination.
An academy graduate and a £52million big money flop.
But Scott McTominay and Fred have turned into the engine room that has got Manchester United’s red machine motoring again.
They are the pair sat in front of the back four that manager Ole Solskjaer always turns to for big games, and in times of need.
They needed a win on Tuesday night after a little wobble so the 24-year-old Scot and 27-year-old Brazilian were in.
The pair give a life and energy to United that wears opponents down and has helped them to make the club’s first title tilt in eight years.
McTominay said: “I don’t really know what makes us play well together.
“But Fred is such a great player, I love playing with him and he is such a great guy as well.
“He had a tough time in his first year, difficult moments here and there, but now you’re seeing a proper, proper player and a bit of Brazilian flair coming out now and again as well.”
The pair’s form has added to the competition there is for midfield places at United right now.
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Paul Pogba looks revived and while he was on the bench in the 9-0 win on Tuesday that was the first time he had been left out the starting line-up since Boxing Day.
Nemanja Matic is once again like a player with two titles under his belt from his time at Chelsea.
Then there is Donny van de Beek waiting in the wings too. Good by all accounts, but you’ll have to check old Ajax tapes to be sure.
McTominay said: “For us it’s about pushing each other and having that healthy competition.
“There isn’t any bitterness between any of us in terms of who plays, but we’re all desperate for the shirt and if you’re not playing you’re not happy.
“But that’s what you want, you want every player wanting to play every single game.
If you have an off-day or you don’t turn up properly then it can be difficult to get back in.
“You have to be focused and dialled into doing your job.
“If you’re not then you don’t know how many games you might miss because of the quality we’ve got in the squad.
“If you have an off-day or you don’t turn up properly then it can be difficult to get back in.
“That’s the winning mentality and the culture that the coaches have created and it’s definitely working.”
While there was criticism about a lack of leaders in the United camp not long ago, McTominay like Bruno Fernandes, has emerged as a very vocal one, backing up captain Harry Maguire.
On Tuesday night at Old Trafford you could even hear him telling goalscoring legend Edinson Cavani to be alert.
He said: “You have to take responsibility for what you’re doing on the football pitch and if someone’s not doing it like myself, I’d expect to be told and I’d hold my hands up if I make a mistake, it’s part and parcel of football.”
At that stage of the game he was no doubt still feeling the effects of that appalling challenge from Alex Jankewitz in the opening two minutes that left him with stud scrape marks down his thigh.
But McTominay is made from tough stuff, not only did he play on but joined the goalscorers in their 9-0 demolition of Southampton.
Fans even noticed how when Daniel James scored the ninth and wheeled away in celebration, McTominay was berating him, telling him to get the ball out the net so they could restart and get a tenth.
There is no let-up with him.
McTominay said: “If you spoke to some of my friends in terms of how they would view me, they’d probably say I was ruthless.
“When we were younger growing up I had that ruthless streak.”
Solskjaer rewarded those leadership abilities in McTominay by giving him the captain’s armband for the first time for their FA Cup win at Watford.
The player saw it as a challenge laid down by the manager and he passed the test by leading United to victory with the winning goal.
McTominay said: “For the manager I presume every decision he makes with me and other players is a test.
“It’s not just, ‘Oh I’ll give him the captaincy for no reason’ – it’s a test.
“Everything in life is a test and you have to pass those tests.
“It’s important to really show people that you can be an example at this football club and not let things go to your head.”
McTominay is most certainly that example.
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