McTominay's unwillingness to be reprogrammed as a defensive-minded midfielder was one of Solskjaer's worst mistakes this season. After scoring twice against Leeds last year, Solskjaer branded McTominay "an attacking midfielder by nature," which was not quite correct. McTominay began his career as a forward with the United younger levels, but he only scored three goals with the Under-21s in 2016-17, his most notable season. Due to his little stature, McTominay was unable to play for the Under-18s.
McTominay was recognized as a deep-lying midfielder by Jose Mourinho, and Solskjaer added strings to the Scot's bow, transforming him into a more complete player with goal-scoring instincts. However, it was not for the team's benefit. McTominay's best performance for United came against Mourinho's Tottenham two years ago as a destroyer. McTominay was more ferocious in the Europa League final than Paul Pogba, who had been moved to center midfield, and you get the impression Solskjaer meant it to be the other way around.
At Villarreal two weeks ago, Carrick ripped up Solskjaer's plan for McTominay, and United went to a 4-4-2 out of possession. McTominay studied Callum Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea, and the winger went cold. McTominay is still allowed off the leash to help United's pressing, and he and Fred were the players who put the greatest pressure on Palace. Rangnick looks to have given McTominay, 25, a remit both with and without the ball this week. Carrick deserves credit for fine-tuning McTominay's role and rescuing him after a disastrous first half against Watford, in which he was not totally fit, conceded a penalty, was booked, and then hooked during the interval.
Rangnick is expected to remain with his 4-2-2-2 formation against Young Boys on Wednesday in order to restore continuity and identity to a club that had been mired in inconsistency. That's where United's single specialized defensive midfielder, Nemanja Matic, would logically fit in. Rotating one player for another in the same formation is not difficult. As a player, Solskjaer was a natural at it, but as a manager, he failed miserably. United is currently reversing the trend.
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