Expectation hung heavy in the air when the Serb was plucked from Partizan Belgrade for a fee of around £7m three years ago, but the transfer would prove to be a rare error of judgment on Sir Alex Ferguson's part.
A fleet-footed, diminutive forward, capable of operating on the wing or behind a striker, it seems Tosic was simply not cut out for the physical nature of English football. In a United squad bursting with talent – his first appearance was as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo, his second for Dimitar Berbatov – the then 21-year-old lacked either the patience or tenacity to fight for a regular place.
He lasted just a year at Old Trafford, and made only five appearances, before heading to Cologne for a four-month loan spell that proved to be more of a success. The Germans wanted to sign him on a permanent basis but couldn't meet United's price.
CSKA Moscow did not have that problem and Tosic has become a mainstay of their side over the past two years, returning to the sort of dazzling form that made him such an eye-catching proposition during his formative years at Partizan. His talents will be on display today when Serbia begin their World Cup qualifying campaign against Scotland at Hampden, the 25-year-old likely to be one of Sinisa Mihajlovic's key attacking outlets in a team known mainly for its defensive strength.
Arthur Albiston will take it all in with heightened interest. The former Manchester United and Scotland international's first concern will centre on whether Craig Levein's side can begin their campaign on a positive note. But he is also keen to see just how Tosic has matured and developed since his unsuccessful stint at Old Trafford.
Albiston, a United veteran of some 14 seasons and a former youth coach at the club, saw more of Tosic than most in his role as an analyst and match summariser for MUTV, the club's in-house television channel, taking in many of the Serb's appearances for the reserves as well as his handful of games for the first team.
Albiston's abiding memory is of a talented, technically-gifted individual but he does not see Tosic as someone Scotland should fear unduly.
"He was the sort of player who looked very clever on the ball: very tidy, all left foot" Albiston told Herald Sport. "But he didn't look like he had a great deal of strength to cope with playing in the Premier League. When I watched him playing it was almost as if the shirt was too big for him. He looked like he was 15 and didn't really have the physique to stand up to that kind of football.
"He had arrived from Partizan as a rising star, but when he came to United he just couldn't get into the first team. To be fair it's difficult for a lot of players when you move to a club of that size and you're surrounded by international superstars. He was coming in and trying to displace people such as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, Ronaldo, Nani, Berbatov and Wayne Rooney. So it was always going to be difficult for him to edge his way into the first team.
"But even in the reserves he still looked a little bit shell-shocked at times, playing at places like Altrincham, and even at that level games often passed him by.
"It might have been easier for him if he had just been thrown into the first team where he would have been surrounded by better players. Maybe if that had happened he would have settled more quickly and made more of an impact but that never happened for whatever reason.
"He moved on to Moscow and has done very well over there. Technically, he's a very good player and maybe he's more confident now. He's probably bulked up a bit, too, so he can maybe withstand tackles better. But I don't think our defenders should be too worried about coming up against him."
Albiston described Tosic's attributes and positional play as similar to Lionel Messi's but emphasised he wasn't comparing like with like.
"He was a very skilful, neat player. He won't launch 50 or 60-yard passes but if he plays in the middle of the park he can pass the ball around you very cleverly. Whoever is up against him in midfield or in defence needs to make sure they get tight to him as he can move the ball quickly either way, although he is predominantly left-sided.
"He's not someone who's likely to track back and do the defensive work. He's probably their equivalent of Messi although obviously not to the same standard. He can go past people, although he's not blessed with tremendous pace, and he's decent at set-plays too. But I don't think the Scotland defence should be losing too much sleep over how to handle him."
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