HE kicked his heels in Kazakhstan. And was substitute in San Marino. Just don’t ask Scott McTominay if he regrets choosing Scotland over England.

He might have made his big breakthrough at Manchester United this season, and more than played his part against Paris St Germain, but this 22-year-old has had an inauspicious start to life at international level. But thankfully this level-headed Lancaster-born lad has had no second thoughts at all when it comes to delighting his family in Helensburgh and his former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson by throwing his lot in with Scotland.

“Not at all, I’ve never thought that once,” said McTominay. “A lot of people do ask me about that but the question is irrelevant now. It’s two years ago and I’ve forgotten about it.


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“So when people ask, I say ‘what sort of question is that?’ ‘Ask me about something else’. ‘Ask me about my holidays.’ It’s a question I’m not interested in and they shouldn’t be either.

“It was my decision to play for Scotland and my family couldn’t be more proud that they can see me hopefully playing many more games and getting lots of goals as well. You have to take the belief from all the fans that you should be here.”

Seven caps in, we are still waiting for the first genuine highlight of McTominay’s international career to unfold but Clarke is wise enough to sense what he potentially has in this 6ft 4in midfielder. A former striker in his youth days, McTominay has blossomed from his usual station as a holding player to showcase what he can bring in an attacking sense under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 22-year-old’s first impressions of the new Scotland manager are favourable, but then – having spent three years together at Chelsea – perhaps there are similarities between him and McTominay’s mentor Jose Mourinho. It was under Mourinho that the youngster learned that there was only one man’s opinion who mattered – that of the manager, the Portuguese helping out with progress reports of where he stood in comparison with the greats of the past he had worked with.

“We’ve had one session and not even had a meeting yet but I’m sure in the coming weeks and hopefully years under Steve I’ll see many messages that have been passed through,” said McTominay. “He [Mourinho] was a top man and the way he looked after me was incredible. I would quiz him about different players and see what they were like at my age. I’d ask about their mentality and the quality levels they had.


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“Nobody is the finished article at 22-years-old, it’s about the quality of football you’re playing,” he added. “But I’ve had two-and-half-years of playing proper, high level football and you have to go and show that with Scotland as well. You have to take that mentality with you in club and national team games.”

As it happens, there is a similarity with McTominay’s goals with both club and international level – as he bids to restore both to their former glories. He might just be 22, but nights like PSG have whetted the appetite. He is tired of being regarded as a kid, a work in progress.

“Now it is about cementing myself in the team and kicking on for next season and get Scotland and Manchester United back where they belong, like playing in the Champions League and obviously playing in a major tournament would be a dream,” said McTominay.

“Of course, you have to have that belief that you can be one of the guys that can help,” he added. “It is a transition period for both. It is important you take that on board at a reasonably young age and you take responsibility. You don’t want to be seen as a kid anymore, playing a bit part. You want to be there and have role to play.

“You have to grow up quick. There’s no time to act like a kid or behave like a lot of young players do. You see it a lot where a lot gets given to players too much too early. You see it even with Scotland. You have to keep your feet on the ground and keep doing everything you did in the reserves at Manchester United three years ago. My life’s not changed. I am still playing football. That’s it.”


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While his development has come in-house rather than north of the border, McTominay is a standard bearer for a new wave of Scottish players, most of them still in their early to mid-20s, for whom FA Premier League football is becoming the norm. Only recently, Aston Villa’s John McGinn and Norwich City’s Kenny McLean joined a group which already includes McTominay, Liverpool’s Champions League winner Andy Robertson, and in-demand Ryan Fraser of Bournemouth.

“Look at people like Ryan Fraser, Andy Robertson and obviously myself, and John McGinn and Kenny McLean who are now playing in the Premier League, there’s a good core of boys playing at a high level in Scotland and a high level in England,” said McTominay. “And obviously Johnny Russell as well. I mean this when I say it: it is exciting times for Scotland. Hopefully we can get it right in next few days.”

Mixing with top quality opposition should leave them unfazed when they travel to venues like Brussels next Tuesday night, there is an optimism that McTominay may avoid the fate which befell Darren Fletcher and so many others, of being a top quality Scot exiled from major competitions.

“He trained with us when he was in the reserves,” said McTominay. “And he is a top man. Honestly, he is exactly the player all the boys in the dressing room should look to emulate if they want to have a good career like he has. He is a real top man with everything he has gone through as well. It’s a credit to him how well he has done since coming back from his illness. Former players like him will be desperate for everyone here to come together and achieve something as big as getting to a major tournament. If we were to get there we don’t want to go there and roll over. We want to put a statement out there about how good we are.”