England boss Gareth Southgate has been left to rue one that got away after Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay pledged his international allegiance to Scotland.
It is understood the uncapped 21-year-old, who was born in Lancaster, has chosen to play for his father’s native land despite his representatives speaking with the Football Association regarding a possible England Under-21s call-up.
Here we look at whether the Three Lions have missed out on a potential key player.
McTominay has already won Jose Mourinho’s trust
McTominay may have only made his first United appearance in May, but he has quickly found an admirer in boss Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese has been effusive in his praise for the young midfielder and has even selected him over club-record signing Paul Pogba for key fixtures in recent weeks. In relation to the international tug of war over McTominay, Mourinho said recently: “It looks like England is missing him.”
He has accrued vital big-game experience
There are not many English-qualified players that have featured in a Champions League knockout contest but McTominay was given the nod for United against Sevilla last month. He was also selected by Mourinho for the 2-1 win over Chelsea in the following fixture. As such, the pressure that comes with international football would not be so great for McTominay, particularly when he plays for the most scrutinised club in the land.
England have a dearth of options in McTominay’s position
The defensive central-midfield position that McTominay operates in is an area of weakness for England boss Southgate given his lack of top-quality options. Jake Livermore, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier and Harry Winks have all featured there recently for their country but perhaps only Tottenham’s Dier possesses the physical attributes of McTominay. Against the leading nations in world football, Southgate would have surely welcomed a player with McTominay’s defensive attributes.
He is not the first to turn down England
The FA have felt rejection recently. Wilfried Zaha, capped by England in two friendlies, turned his back on the Three Lions for an international future with Ivory Coast while exciting Liverpool midfielder Ben Woodburn, who was born in England, has already graduated to the Wales senior team after representing them at youth level. There has to be some concern among the powers-that-be at the FA that playing for England is not as alluring as it should be.
The next generation provides hope
While McTominay’s loss may be felt, Southgate and the FA will also point to the conveyor belt of talent coming behind him. England’s under-17s and under-20s both won their respective World Cups last year and there is optimism that the next generation can kick on and enjoy success in the senior ranks.