It has seemingly become a trend in recent years for younger English talent blessed with the options of dual nationalities to snub the Three Lions for their other eligible nation.
Alex Iwobi, Wilfried Zaha, Ben Woodburn, and potentially Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey are just some of the many players who could/have opt(ed) for pastures elsewhere, and the latest name to do so could be a very familiar face for United fans.
The most recent of which has been Scott McTominay, who has followed the Glaswegian blood of his family in pledging his footballing future to his father’s nationality, not to the country in which he was born. The 21-year-old has been selected for Scotland’s upcoming slate of international games after meeting with Alex McLeish at Carrington earlier in the month.
As a Welsh-born man with an English father, I understand the dilemma. And in my playing days, it did leave me thinking: “Who would I choose if I got to international level?”
Thankfully, I haven’t been in the position where I’ve had to give it some serious thought – not due to my lack of ability of course… And given that McTominay didn’t even meet with Southgate, neither has he. It’s obvious that Scotland was where Scott wanted to play his international football, and I think it was the right decision. Here’s why:
Steven Gerrard has come out in declaring his frustrations as to why he thinks the 2006 England side didn’t do better at the World Cup that year.
Bear in mind, that legendary England squad featured the likes of Gerrard himself, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, a youthful Wayne Rooney, as well as the formidable partnership of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in defence – yet still were knocked out by Portugal on penalties in the quarter-finals.
The number of world-class players in the England squad has diminished over the years, to the point where there is only one player who stands out as reaching that level – that being Harry Kane.
In their last major international tournament, Euro 2016, England progressed out of the group stages to make it to the last 16, where they matched up against Iceland. England lost 2-1 in that game, plummeting out of the competition.
Even in their latest friendly, England only just managed to brush aside the Netherlands thanks to a stellar finish from Jesse Lingard, a team that the Three Lions should be beating comfortably considering the position the Dutch are in at the moment.
And yes, I realise that Scotland lost 1-0 to Costa Rica recently, but these sup-par 1/2-0 performances have been consistent for England in recent years.
Even if you go back to last summer, Scotland managed to hold England to a 2-2 draw at Hampden Park in a World Cup Qualifier. I’m in no way saying that Scotland will win a major tournament before England, but that leads me to my next point.
There’s no doubting that Scott McTominay would get more playing time for Scotland than he would for England, and that’s not me knocking his ability. In fact, England need a player like him at the moment.
The English side for the upcoming international fixtures is inundated with sub-par midfielders who won’t do much more than play their part. Jake Livermore, Ross Barkley, and Danny Drinkwater to name a few.
These names just aren’t bringing a level of intimidation that the likes of Lampard, Scholes, and Gerrard once did when their opponents saw them on the teamsheet. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of Dele Alli but on his day he can certainly bring more to a side than most of his national team-mates.
More caps at an international level can only work wonders for McTominay, these games will be a perfect chance for McTominay to make not just Red Devils fans appreciate his craft, but the country as a whole.
Becoming a Scottish cult hero
Fans of ‘lesser’ teams have a tendency to turn their better players into icons. With Welsh fans, Gareth Bale is their messiah, the same with Egyptian fans and Mohamed Salah, and the same again with Armenians and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
With Scotland, Scott McTominay has a higher chance of becoming a national hero, as opposed to fading into the background like he might have done with England.
Especially with Scott Brown recently announcing his retirement from international football, there is now that hole to fill, and McTominay has the capabilities to do just that.
It’s not only attacking players that are hailed as cult heroes by fans, but midfielders as well. Again, with Wales, Joe Allen has become a fan-favourite despite competing for relegation strugglers, Stoke City, during his day job.
Thankfully, McTominay has the likes of Carrick, Matic, and Pogba to guide him in the right direction in improving his game, unlike Joe.
Less pressure to perform
The British media has a tendency to latch onto the latest emerging English talent and hail them as the next big thing.
So often, we’ve seen young players come and go, not living up to expectations that have been set due to over-exposure and the pressures that come with it. These expectations are more apparent than ever, especially when that player plays for Manchester United.
Thankfully, the latest name on that list, Marcus Rashford, has continued to perform at the level he did when bursting onto the scene in 2016. More crucially, you could even say that Rashford has improved as a player in general.
The likes of Federico Macheda, Adnan Januzaj, and Ravel Morrison haven’t however. And although not all of these names are English, it just proves that the main barrier preventing upcoming prospects from becoming stars is their ability to live up to their potential.
We’ve seen it with Harry Kane, we’ve seen it with Dele Alli, and we’ve now seen it with Marcus Rashford.
In his breakout season under Jose Mourinho, McTominay has become more than just an academy player who has made sporadic appearances when stakes are lower, he’s become an integral part of the United midfield.
Not having the eyes of the nation and the media watching his every move at an international level can only benefit McTominay and improve the quality of his football, both at international and club levels.
To conclude, it’s obvious to me that Scott McTominay has made the right choice in choosing to play his international football for Scotland as opposed to England, and I’m sure some fans will agree with.
United are well-known for spending big in the summers and have already been linked to massive names, many of which share the same position as Scott.
It’s going to be a huge season for United as well as McTominay next season, but can he help the Red Devils to conquer once again?