Should Man Utd use Scott McTominay at striker?

We’re in February in the 2023/24 season and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer is a defensive midfielder who has started 12 Premier League games.

Scott McTominay has been the hero for United on a number of occasions this year, most recently reminding his forwards how to score by netting a late winner against Aston Villa after coming off the bench.

Having also shown an eye for goal at international level, United fans have begun to question whether McTominay’s future should be further forward on the pitch. Well, should it?

  • Scott McTominay’s goal record in 2023/24 season

From his debut in 2017 up to the end of the 2022/23 campaign, McTominay had scored a total of 12 goals in 144 Premier League games. A respectable total for a defensive midfielder.

This year, however, McTominay has stepped it up. He has netted seven times in 21 outings, including winning goals against Brentford, Chelsea and now Villa.

The Scotland international has been prolific, often entering games late on and popping up with game-deciding goals.

He’s averaging a goal every 172 minutes this season – pretty much one every two games – compared to one every 752 heading into this campaign.

  • Why does Scott McTominay score so many goals?

If there was a simple answer to this question, defences would be stopping him. In truth, a combination of attributes make McTominay a danger in the box.

While he’s a defensive midfielder by trade, McTominay loves getting forward and boasts impeccable timing when it comes to late runs into the box. He obviously doesn’t have the same record as someone like Frank Lampard, but it’s the same sort of attribute – that ability to sense space and predict where the ball will end up.

Many of McTominay’s goals feel as though he is simply in the right place at the right time.

When that happens once, it’s good fortune. Twice, and it’s perhaps the start of a trend. At this point, however, none of the midfielder’s goals are coming by chance.

Fearless in his willingness to throw himself into headers, McTominay’s art of box-crashing chaos is just that, an art.

On top of that all, McTominay simply boasts a sweet strike. He knows where the goal is and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger when it lands at his feet.

Many of his early goals were peaches from outside the area, with McTominay always willing to test his luck.

  • Should Man Utd use Scott McTominay at striker?

There’s actually quite a good comparison for United fans in the form of Marouane Fellaini, who called Old Trafford home between 2013 and 2019.

The skyscraper midfielder was known for his crunching tackles before flashing a penchant for scoring, often late on when given more authority to get forwards, and his use as an emergency striker under Jose Mourinho was verging on meme territory at the time.

However, when Fellaini was actually played in an attacking role which should, theoretically, help him embrace his goalscoring, the Belgian wasn’t the same player, and that’s because the skill of scoring goals as a midfielder is nothing like doing it as a natural striker.

While McTominay’s aerial ability will always translate to goals, what sets him apart from the rest is his late runs.

The 27-year-old takes up space which has been vacated by a striker and knows how to cause overloads, and it’s that ability which helps him rack up the goals. Playing him at striker would waste that skill.

  • What has Scott McTominay said about playing at striker?

The idea of moving to striker permanently has never been publicly floated to McTominay, but the midfielder has previously addressed claims that he was actually raised as a forward.

“People always said: ‘’You played as a striker as a kid’. I never played as a striker,” he told club media earlier this season.

“I played two games there with [former Reserves coach] Warren Joyce because we had no striker. So, whenever I score a goal, people always say: ‘He used to be a striker, that’s why’.

“I never used to be a striker! I’ve always been a midfield player, a number eight, so it is funny when you hear stuff like that.”

What we know

  • McTominay scored late winner as Man Utd saw off Aston Villa
  • Scotland midfielder leads Man Utd’s scoring charts this season
  • Claims he used to play as striker have been rejected.

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