MANCHESTER United midfielder Scott McTominay is winning his race to be fit for Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel at the end of March.

McTominay has been sidelined since suffering a knee ligament injury in the Old Trafford club’s win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

However, national coach Steve Clarke has received positive updates on the midfielder's progress and is confident he will be back playing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team before the Israel game.

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Having the 12-times capped 23-year-old available for the Hampden game against Andreas Herzog’s team will increase Scotland’s chances of reaching a final against either Norway or Serbia and this summer's finals.

Asked about McTominay, Clarke said: “It’s difficult for me to comment as I don’t work with the players and I’m not at the clubs, but he’s improving.”

John McGinn of Aston Villa, who scored seven goals in Euro 2020 qualifying, and Kieran Tierney of Arsenal are currently out with a fractured ankle and a dislocated shoulder respectively.

Clarke feels it will be touch-and-go whether the midfielder and left back will be back playing for their clubs sides and available for selection for the Israel game on Thursday, March 26.

“He (McGinn) is working hard on his rehab and is desperate to be fit,” he said. “But he’ll be guided by his injury and his club.

“It doesn’t matter if you are desperate to be fit, if your body says you’re not fit, you’re not fit. The good thing about John is I know he’ll do everything possible in order to be fit.

“They (Aston Villa) certainly aren’t going to be pushing him to be ready for Scotland. That’s the nature of it. They want him fit to help Aston Villa. But they will want him fit as quickly as possible to help Villa get away from the bottom of the table.

“That works in our favour. And John’s desperate to be with the squad. He is one of the boys who would actually report injured, unfit to play. That is just the nature of the player.”

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Asked about Tierney, Clarke said: “Close, close. Tierney is a slightly different kettle of fish in that I have never had him in my squad.

“It is going to be close for Kieran because I don’t think his return to play will be until the beginning or middle of March. That might be a difficult one”

Clarke stressed there was no prospect of him asking Scott Brown to come out of international retirement despite the Celtic captain admitting he would consider playing for his country again back in November.

“We are well covered in midfield,” he said. “I think the Scott Brown one is an old issue. I think Scott finished it himself the other week. He restarted it mind you, and then he finished it!”

HeraldScotland:

Meanwhile, Clarke welcomed the news that the Israel game is on course to be a sell-out and predicted having a capacity crowd at Hampden will help Scotland go through to the play-off final.

Around 35,000 briefs have been snapped up by members of the Tartan Army already – 8,000 more than the SFA had expected to be sold at this stage.

Fans have taken advantage of the fact that entry to the ground only costs £20 for adults and £5 for children and concessions in large numbers.

“That’s good,” said Clarke. “I’m not an expert on ticket sales, but I would have thought 35,000 sold in January for a game in the end of March is good.

“I think we will be close to a full house. We need it. It doesn’t matter who you are playing against at Hampden, whether it’s one of the top nations or one of the so-called lesser nations.

“If we have a full house here and the Tartan Army in full voice it can make a big difference. The pricing structure was good, it has been well-placed.”