When Jose Mourinho made the decision to hand Scott McTominay a hastily arranged Manager’s Player of the Season Award in 2018, it was a choice met with derision.
The Manchester United academy graduate had already been labelled as a ‘teacher’s pet’ under the Portuguese manager.
His insistence to play the midfielder over Paul Pogba was one often condemned and there was a suggestion that he was merely a pawn in Mourinho’s battle with the Frenchman.
But when he was asked to discuss the award he handed McTominay in 2018, Mourinho actually showed his rarely seen human side.
“The meaning is important,” Jose said, after giving him the award. “I think the dream of every boy that arrives at the club is to play for the first team.
"When the dream becomes true, the next dream is to play in big matches and to play in the Champions League and eventually to play for the national team.
”This player has given everything, in five or six months, so my Player of the Year has to be Scott McTominay.“
He continued: “Scott was not getting one, I decided to change as it's not acceptable. He is the one that did everything.
“He started the season in the Academy and ends the season playing in big matches, in Premier League derbies and Champions League matches, while becoming an important player for the squad.
”So I thought this kid cannot go home without an award, so he's going to get my award.“
And in the years since, Mourinho has been consistently proven correct. From squad member, to rotation player, to regular, to a point where he has even worn the captain’s armband this season.
Current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has described the 24-year-old as a ‘monster’ and the best Manchester United manager of all time agrees with him.
Speaking about the Scotland international, Sir Alex Ferguson compared McTominay’s role to the integral one his compatriot Darren Fletcher played in his squad.
Ferguson would always call upon Fletcher in the fabled ‘squeaky bum time’ and Solskjaer has shown a similar penchant for doing the same with McTominay.
“McTominay is now emerging as one of Man United’s big players. When you watch Man United pick a team for a big game, McTominay is in it,” he told Scotland FA’s YouTube channel.
“Good character, great trainer. I know a lot about the boy and that’s the background of him.
“I signed him when he was seven or eight and he was actually a centre-forward when he was a kid.
“He’s sprouted, a little bit like Darren (Fletcher), Darren had a few annoying injuries as he was growing and he needed some rest period.
“McTominay is of a similar type to Darren, long, lanky, good winner of the ball, good turn of pace going forward, great attitude to the game.
“If you go back to my time with Darren, in big games, we very seldom left him out. McTominay is falling under those guidelines now.”
For all of his faults, Mourinho’s McTominay stance now looks similar to the infamous row Harry Redknapp had about Frank Lampard all those years ago.
A fan club including him and Sir Alex Ferguson is certainly not one to be sniffed at.
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