>
My tribe

Neville v McTominay: Why did the Man Utd legend need to slate the kid?

COMMENT: So why do it? Why would Gary Neville dig him out like that? Scott McTominay. Not a 'Manchester United class' player...?

Neville is one to always champion academy talent. Young players. United's connection with their academy. He's even attacked Jose Mourinho and his attitude towards such traditions. Yet when we have a lad come from nowhere. Backed to the hilt by his manager. In their biggest games. Neville can't wait to pull him apart.

When does it end with this lot? When does the credibility earned from a successful playing career begin to fall away? Six Premier League starts. That's all McTominay has. Beating Liverpool and Chelsea in the process. Yet Neville, with everything he's built as a United player, will look upon high and pass judgment. Write the lad off. Is it any wonder Mourinho is fed up?

"McTominay, when I watch him, I'm not sure he's actually good enough on the ball to be a Man United midfield player," Neville stated last week, before suggesting McTominay could somehow develop into a centre-half.

"I do wonder whether if actually he's got more of a position at centre back eventually, the physicality that he has. He's a big lad. Is he sharp enough on the ball to be a Man United central midfield player?"

Where the centre-half suggestion came from, only Neville knows. McTominay was always a midfielder at United. And a diminutive one at that. The player we see today is the product of a 12-month ten inch growth spurt just three years ago. It was this sudden change which convinced U23 coaching staff McTominay could be employed as a centre-forward (not a centre-half). The youngster filling in for over a season - out of position - as United failed to find an U23 striker signing to fill the role.

McTominay didn't moan about the demands. He actually put his hand up. Volunteered. This all in Mourinho's first season at United. If he was going to catch the new manager's eye, McTominay would be doing so out of position.

Just yesterday, we ran a story about Mark Lawrenson and his loyalty to Liverpool. In his role with the BBC, he's never tipped against them for the past two years. Okay, it was light-hearted. Having a dig at five-time league winner Lawro and his blind trust. But as a former Reds player. As a fan. It shows he gives his old club - at the least - the benefit of the doubt.

For Neville, it's the opposite. The great champion of the Class of 92. The one always banging on about the academy and United traditions. Yet, he just wants to pull apart the club's big success story this season.

Okay, okay. For us on the outside, we can rationalise this. Neville flopped at Valencia. He was part of a disastrous World Cup campaign with England. He even had to apologise for rubbishing Andrew Robertson as a Liverpool player as late as December. So yeah, the credibility amongst the general football public should be waning.

But we're still talking about a former United captain. A graduate from The Cliff. A player who has won everything in the game. As much as we can scoff at his humiliation in Spain, his achievements will still carry weight for every player on United's books. Especially those who have tread the same path.

So what is it? Why without any prompting - his criticism of McTominay stemmed from opening remarks about Paul Pogba. Why would Neville take aim at a lad whom no-one inside English football gave a jot about six months ago? Well, that is, apart from his manager.

Maybe that's it? Perhaps it is Mourinho picking McTominay out from the crowd. The lad never considered for any England junior or youth team. Never contacted by anyone from the Scottish FA. Yet Mourinho, that anti-youth, anti-academy manager. The one who'll never gamble with inexperience. It was he, beyond anyother coach in the UK, who thought enough of McTominay to throw him in against Chelsea and Liverpool. And be proved right.

Has Neville...? Indeed, has any of his peers? Have any of them actually highlighted McTominay's road to the first team as Mourinho has? Has there been another player, never capped at youth level, to make a similar breakthrough?

Maybe this is what irks Neville? That Mourinho, with McTominay as an example, is proving him wrong everytime he opens his mouth about the manager and his attitude towards young players.

Every ex-player connected to United should be celebrating McTominay this season - and the manager's hand in his emergence. Even at a club the size of United, you don't have to be a natural like Marcus Rashford to make it.

As Mourinho said of McTominay at last week's awards night: “I always say that for me there are not young players or old players, it is just about the quality of the personality and this kid has everything that I want, so I think that it is good for the younger boys in the academy to look at him as an example of player.

“We know it is important to have players like Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford that were born in the club, but you need to have the right profile. Scott shows to other players that the dream is still alive."

The player reaching for that "dream" can still come in many different forms and sizes. McTominay and Mourinho have proven as much this season. Neville, for all his playing success, should be the last one to be writing this dream off.

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

Have your say
  • Add your favourite leagues and clubs
  • Build your own personal news stream
  • Easily share your favourite stories
  • Connect with what your friends are saying

Select your favourite
leagues and clubs
to get started.

Already part of MyTribe?