UEFA Champions League Magazine - Episode 21Mar 24
Scott McTominay exclusive: Red Devils academy graduate insists Manchester United's midfield is "best in the world" for strength in depth
Manchester United's homegrown star reflects on new arrivals at Old Trafford and the bid to find the right balance from a world-class arsenal of midfield talent.
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay has warned his Red Devils team-mates against complacency as they prepare to face RB Leipzig in matchday two of the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
United welcome the German league leaders to Old Trafford a week after recording an impressive victory over last season's beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain, in a result that has blown Group G wide open.
Like the Premier League giants, Leipzig won their opening game with victory over Istanbul Basaksehir and McTominay is keen for performance levels not to drop as the two sides compete for the early advantage in this season's 'Group of Death'.
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The Bundesliga outfit were the surprise package in last season's competition, making it all the way to the last four before losing out to PSG.
Having beaten Atletico Madrid and Tottenham on the way to the semi-finals, McTominay insists United are well aware of the threat posed by Julian Nagelsmann's young outfit.
"If you go into a game fast asleep then you can get caught out in the Champions League," said the Scotland international.
"Their energy and pressing is really impressive but I feel like the message for us will be to approach this game with firm concentration but also go out and enjoy it.
"We’re playing the Champions League, which we didn’t play in last year. You have to relish every moment that you’re playing in this competition."
In terms of midfield options, everybody knows we’re so strong and right up there with the best in the world for strength in depth.
- Scott McTominay
United have steadied the ship after a rocky start to the 2020/21 campaign.
Back-to-back home defeats to Crystal Palace and Spurs - for a combined score of 9-2 - piled early-season pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the three-time European champions looked to have turned a corner.
The Red Devils have not tasted defeat since their humiliation at the hands of former boss Jose Mourinho and McTominay's partnership with Fred at the base of United's midfield has been a big reason for their change in form, as they go in search of a first home win of the season live on BT Sport.
"The results that we’ve had at Old Trafford haven’t been where we quite want them at the minute but we’ve got an opportunity to right that in the next few games in the Champions League and then against Arsenal in the Premier League," said McTominay.
"We’re building step by step. It’s still early days in the season.
"Some lads have barely had any pre-season and some lads have had international games so everyone is at different levels but now the season is progressing and everyone’s ready so it can only be a positive."
The 23-year-old has got the nod over £30 million summer signing Donny van de Beek so far this season but the combative midfielder knows he cannot afford to take his starting position for granted with so much talent to choose from.
"We’ve got a really good balance to the team at the moment and we’re all pulling in the right direction," added McTominay.
"In terms of midfield options, everybody knows we’re so strong and right up there with the best in the world for strength in depth.
"We've got Paul [Pogba], Nemanja [Matic], Donny [van de Beek], Bruno [Fernandes], myself and Fred… there’s countless options you can play In the middle of the pitch and I feel like we’re all comfortable with each other.
Group of death
Learn a little more about the sides United are competing against for a place in the last 16.
"Every team needs that balance. You need fluidity going forward but you also need that stable base from where you can start to build from and I think we’re starting to see that.
"Whenever we have a stable base it gives the forward lads more freedom and more licence to express themselves.
"We’ve got such good attacking players that we can afford to have that stable base and then let the attacking players flourish."
Edinson Cavani could make his first start for the club having come on as a 60th-minute substitute in United's goalless draw with Chelsea and McTominay has been impressed with what he's seen so far.
"He’s a big character and he demands a lot," said McTominay.
"My first impression of him was that he’s quite shy but very hard-working. You can see that killer instinct, too. He likes to get higher up the pitch and we need that.
"We have that with Anthony [Martial], ]Marcus] Rashford, [Marcus] Greenwood and Dan James but to have that additional experience in Edinson is a brilliant asset to have."
Can McTominay, Cavani and co upset the form team in the Bundesliga to edge closer to the knockout stages or will United's search for a first home win of the season go on?
Watch McTominay and Manchester United take on RB Leipzig exclusively live on BT Sport 2 HD on TV and online from 7pm tonight.