Six years on, it can seem that McTominay is expected to grow another ten inches each time the 6ft 4in dons a Scotland shirt. So much is placed on the player’s broad shoulders. His burgeoning influence at a global heavyweight of a club, in a more advanced role than fellow English Premier League major figures Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney within Steve Clarke’s set-up, ensures that.
The status of McTominay will be reflected in how Scotland are set-up for their warm-up encounter against Luxembourg, ahead of contesting the Euro 2020 finals that will be the country’s first appearance at a major tournament in 23 years. Clarke is set to rest a host of those players that started for the hugely encouraging 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in midweek. With Callum McGregor, Tierney and Robertson held in reserve for tonight’s friendly, it can be expected that McTominay will be named captain for the first at international level. Five months after he was given the honour by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when the Old Trafford manager rotated his squad for an FA Cup tie against Watford. He responded to that extra responsibility by producing the headed goal that took United through. A measure about how he feels about expectations on him being ramped up – as they will when Scotland joust with the Czech Republic, England and Croatia in the Euros.
“It’s not a problem – that’s the way football is,” McTominay said. “You have got to thrive on the pressure, it’s part and parcel of the game. You don’t play football to have easy games and expect to win 5-0, you want to have intense games and have pressure on your shoulders. That’s no problem, I’m looking forward to it and it’s exciting for sure.
“I don’t know where having confidence comes from, it can come from a lot of different things. It can come from your upbringing, the way you were brought up by your family. You can’t look at it as too much pressure, once it becomes too much pressure you’d might as well stop. You might not enjoy it in that case and I have always enjoyed it, whether it’s a cup game with Man Utd, a reserve game or a game with Scotland. Football is the same, you have to put pressure on yourself and enjoy being under pressure. That’s the way I look at it.
“Every boy’s dream is to play in major tournaments like this, World Cups and European Championships so it’s nothing but a privilege. It’s something I will look back on later in my career and be thankful for it. Personally, it is all about improving. Every day in training that’s what I try to do and this season I have definitely done that. The way I have conducted myself personally, and for the team, it’s all been positive. I just have to keep doing that, do the right things and keep pushing. There are more levels to come, I am a firm believer in myself.
“At the start of the season I always write down notes and objectives, putting in little details about what I need to improve. There are numerous things. That’s the same with the club, we go through things and where we want to get to. I will keep them under my belt and hope I keep moving in the right direction – in training with the coaches at my club and with Scotland. That is of real importance to me, I was a late developer in terms of turning into a man – I was probably 18. So technically I have probably only had three years being a fully grown man so it’s about training hard and doing the right things in the gym. When you look at it like that, it’s important for me to keep going.”
It must be said that for Scotland’s most mouthwatering clash of the Euros that will see them take to the Wembley turf on June 18 – four days after they begin their Group D assault against the Czechs at Hampden, the venue where they will complete their section by entertaining Croatia on June 21 – there will be zero pressure on them. The eye-popping array of talent available to Gareth Southgate is expected to see a one-side contest between these two great rivals. However, McTominay has no interest in ruminating on perceptions of Clarke’s in his homeland, with the Lancashire-born player’s patriotism for the country he represents fuelled by his Scottish father Frank.
“I don’t know [about that] because I can’t speak on behalf of other teams and the way they might think about us,” he said of the apparent dismissive English attitude over the threat to them posed by their neighbouring nation. “But what I can say is I want us to come and play, we are not here to make up the numbers – I have said that before. I stand by that comment, I want us to go and play to our potential – I’m hopeful we can do that.”
McTominay doesn’t deny there has been shade thrown about in the United dressing room over what will unfold when the ancient adversaries go toe-to-toe. “There has been a lot of banter, a lot of little digs and stuff,” he said. “But that’s the best part of it, whenever we play against the boys from the club, it’s top. I have played with [a number of the England players] for years now, with Luke Shaw, Marcus [Rashford], Harry Maguire, and was brought up with Dean Henderson through school. So it will be intense, for sure, but I am looking forward to it. I’m sure they will want to get one over on me.”