Scott McTominay is wowing one pundit at Man Utd this year and the Scot has handed Erik ten Hag a selection dilemma that’ll result in a major omission against Man City.
McTominay forms one half of one of the most criticised midfield pairings in Premier League history. His tandem with Fred, often mockingly dubbed ‘McFred’, has been the target for scorn from fans and pundits alike.
The summer arrival of Brazilian superstar Casemiro was expected to break the Fred-McTominay partnership once and for all.
The pairing has been broken, though not by Casemiro.
Instead, it’s been Christian Eriksen who’s been tasked with pulling the strings alongside McTominay. The new-look engine room has been a revelation.
McTominay is a one-man wrecking crew and the presence of a calming and classy influence such as Eriksen alongside him seems to be working wonders for his game.
Ten Hag generally deploys a 4-2-3-1 formation with three attackers playing behind a lone striker.
Jadon Sancho has made the left wing role his own, while Antony will likely operate on the right.
A surprise could be sprung in that position, according to Paul Merson. However, United will want to retain as much of a threat going forward as possible.
Bruno Fernandes should remain central in the No 10 role and that also means Ten Hag can feature the Portuguese playmaker in the same eleven with Eriksen.
However, writing in his column for the BBC, pundit Danny Murphy thinks a change could be afoot.
Eriksen or Fernandes to make way?
Murphy suggested Ten Hag will be tempted to start Casemiro against City, potentially in favour of one of his creative players.
In that scenario, Casemiro would play alongside McTominay and Eriksen would miss out. Either that, or Eriksen would move to No 10 and Fernandes would be the fall guy.
Murphy stressed Ten Hag is in a difficult situation having committed to £70m when buying Casemiro. If the ex-Real superstar isn’t starting the big games – and they don’t come any bigger than the Manchester derby – then why was he signed?
Alternatively, Ten Hag would stick with those who have served him well over the four-match winning streak in the league.
However, that would again resign Casemiro to a place on the bench and the big occasions are where he should thrive.
“Manchester United’s midfield has played a big part in the recent resurgence by Erik ten Hag’s side. But it is absolutely crucial he gets that area right at Etihad Stadium on Sunday,” wrote Murphy.
“Ten Hag has to decide whether he keeps both Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes in there against Manchester City, or chooses a more defensive-minded set-up and goes with two proper holding players this time.
“With a player as good as Casemiro waiting in the wings for his first league start, the temptation must be to partner him with Scott McTominay to give extra protection to his defence.
“But if Ten Hag does that and leaves one of his more creative players out, then if Manchester United lose he will be asked why he changed a winning team and didn’t go for it more.”
McTominay a man on a mission
Ten Hag’s issue is a welcome one. Indeed, it’s far better to have too many viable options than too few.
Regardless, the dilemma has only emerged thanks to the superb form of McTominay. Murphy has been hugely impressed with how he’s the Scotland international has performed this season.
He continued: “People will say why bring in Casemiro and not use him in a game like this?
“United’s dilemma has partly been created by Scott McTominay’s brilliant form, on top of Eriksen and Fernandes’ performances.
“McTominay has been sitting deeper, alongside Eriksen, in a defensive role. He’s done so well that he has kept Casemiro out of the team since he signed from Real Madrid in August.
“We already knew McTominay had the athleticism and the energy for that position. But what I’ve been really impressed by recently is the discipline he has shown too.
“In the games I’ve watched, the amount of balls he has cleared in his own box has been phenomenal.
“He is tremendous at spotting danger and getting back to help his centre-halves.
“He really has got better, it’s like he has taken to the role. I just don’t think he can do it on his own against a team as good as City though.”