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Image description, McTominay scored seven goals in eight Euro 2024 qualifying matches

Scott McTominay stood on the sidelines at Hampden, soaked to the bone, but still full of energy. It was June 2023, the rainy night against Georgia. A textbook downpour. A game in jeopardy. Weegies with pullers and all that.

The visitors didn’t want to play, but McTominay certainly did. He stared at them when they finally turned up and the action began, long after the scheduled kick-off. Hampden was alive that night – and so was the Manchester United midfielder. He scored a goal in the 2-0 win. Of course he did.

That was one of seven goals he scored in the group, putting him fifth in the goalscoring table, behind Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane.

If you subtract penalties – McTominay’s penalties were all taken out of play – he overtakes Mbappe and Kane and is level with Ronaldo in second place.

But here’s a stat that might make your eyes pop. McTominay scored his seven goals from just eight shots on goal – a supernatural haul that may be unmatched in any season, country or era.

Scotland fans understandably sing about ‘Super’ John McGinn, but McTominay has also become a hero. He is their defensive and attacking midfielder, their former centre-back who could also impress as a centre-forward if given the chance.

To call McTominay versatile would be an understatement.

He is less concerned with exquisite passing than with raw power, stamina, grit and finishing ability. We haven’t seen him in recent friendlies and his absence has left the Tartan Army heart pounding.

Apparently he has a bruised leg. But that is no reason to worry. He has played 51 times for club and country this season. A break will do no harm. On Friday he will play against the Germans. A nation can breathe a sigh of relief.

Jose Mourinho called him a “special character” and invented an end-of-season award as Manchester United manager just so he could give it to his midfielder. A fancy candlestick, in case you’re interested.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called him a “human monster”. Ralf Rangnick called him a future United captain, a comment he disagreed with as McTominay had to endure several periods where a large portion of the Old Trafford faithful did not consider him good enough to be on the bench.

It’s a recurring theme in his United history.

Erik ten Hag was initially skeptical about him, but recently said that McTominay would “give his life” for the club.

The truth is that if West Ham had increased their bid from £30m to £40m last summer, United would probably have done the deal. Pure profit motive, after all. McTominay has been their boy since he was five years old.

It was a blessing that they didn’t sell him. McTominay scored 10 goals last season. His role as a defensive midfielder has since changed and he now has the freedom to penetrate the opposition box more often.

He scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Brentford in October, despite coming on as an 87th-minute substitute. He scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Chelsea in December. He scored the winner against Aston Villa in February and the first goal against Liverpool in a stunning 4-3 win in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

In more than two decades, only four other central midfielders have scored more goals in a single season: Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.

Unlike them, he is not a big name. What Mourinho loved about him was his attitude. Whether in the team or not, he was still the same determined player.

This straightforward style is reminiscent of Darren Fletcher in Sir Alex Ferguson’s time, a straightforward player who was not always in the starting eleven but was always a selfless team player.

‘Never give up’

Image description, McTominay (centre) will make his 50th appearance for Scotland when he faces Germany on Friday.

McTominay is the product of a father from Helensburgh who never missed an opportunity to take his son across the border to introduce him to family and traditions.

There is a story told by Alex McLeish about the time the then Scotland manager undertook an epic journey through the worst of the Beast from the East to win McTominay over. As Big Eck tells it, his mission was so arduous that even Bear Grylls would have shied away from it.

As much as McTominay appreciated the effort – Gareth Southgate sent a text message – he would always make himself available for his father’s country of birth. For the two loves of his footballing life – Manchester United and Scotland. Always.

Today we see him as a 6’4″ powerhouse, but only those close to him remember him as a skinny, 5’6″ wannabe.

He never played football for his country at underage level. He spent two years in a gym. His resilience was what set him apart then and still sets him apart today.

After that dramatic cameo against Brentford, he said something that reflected his personality. “Never give up, man,” he remarked of United’s late, late act of escapism. “You never give up, no matter what situation you’re in in life. Never give up. Never throw in the towel.”

He lived by these words. If he hadn’t believed in himself, he might have caved in when the bigger names were hired for his position.

Pogba was already there when he made his debut in 2017, then came Nemanja Matic for £40 million, Fred for £52 million, Donny van de Beek for £35 million and Casemiro for £65 million.

Also present were Christian Eriksen, Marcel Sabitzer, Sofyan Amrabat and others. McTominay has made 43 appearances for United this season, playing 89 minutes in their FA Cup final victory.

United’s people will be talking about the quarter-final against Liverpool. He scored a goal, provided an assist for Marcus Rashford, won 10 tackles (more than any other player on the pitch), won 100% of his tackles and headed a Liverpool corner clear that set up the counterattack for Amad Diallo’s winner. His energy level that day was incredible.

In uncertain times and under new ownership at Old Trafford, no one can predict the future but for McTominay the only thing that matters right now is Germany on Friday night, then Switzerland, then Hungary.

While United fans can talk about his big moments this season, Scotland supporters can talk forever about the things he did to get Scotland to Munich: the goals, the drive, the endless fighting spirit.

They will hope he has something special left in the tank. With McTominay and his magical run, you can almost bet on it.

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