There are signs Manchester United are starting to click under Ralf Rangnick — and Scott McTominay is the glue pulling everything together.
The midfielder has arguably been the standout performer of the German’s short interim tenure and he was on top form once again as the Red Devils beat Brentford 3-1 earlier this week.
Ahead of this afternoon’s clash with West Ham at Old Trafford, we take a look at why McTominay is so important to United's hopes of a top-four finish.
Cementing his place
Previously one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s go-to guys, McTominay has only strengthened his grasp on a starting berth since Rangnick’s arrival.
The 25-year-old has been named in the first XI for six of the seven league matches under Rangnick — and he only missed last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Aston Villa because of suspension.
United's No39 may still have some doubters but four-and-a-half years on from making his debut, McTominay is one of the first names on the team sheet.
Bossing the midfield battle
United ultimately beat Brentford in comfortable fashion but only after weathering a storm in the first half during which they were under the cosh for large spells.
And McTominay proved pivotal to the visitors getting a foothold in the game, winning 10 out of 14 ground duels before being forced off with an injury in the 84th minute.
It was a dominant display from a player who has won a higher proportion of his duels than any other United midfielder this season (56.35%).
The Scot also ranks 14th among all Premier League midfielders who have contested 100 or more one-on-ones duels during the current campaign.
Impact in attack
McTominay attempted seven dribbles in midweek and completed six of them — noteworthy numbers for an ostensibly defensive-minded midfielder.
But in reality he is much more than a holding player and the Lancaster native is enjoying greater freedom in Rangnick’s gegenpressing-based system.
That includes pushing forward to get on the scoresheet, which he has done twice in his last four appearances across all competitions.
After opening the scoring in United’s 3-1 Premier League win against Burnley with a characteristic drive from the edge of the box, he headed home the only goal as his side knocked Villa out of the FA Cup.
Rangnick has tipped McTominay to wear the United armband.
Speaking after the Cup victory over Villa earlier this month, he said: "He [McTominay] is an academy boy, his energy is amazing.
"He now also starts scoring goals and has some leadership skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years he would be captain of this team."
Rangnick does not typically play with three at the back but if he were to do so, it would not be a surprise to see him use McTominay in one of the outside centre-back positions.
And the 28-cap international has some familiarity with that set-up, having twice started on the right of a back three for Scotland at Euro 2020 — including the goalless draw with England at Wembley.
While that move feels unlikely at present, it is a reflection of the towering midfielder’s versatility that he offers a potential option in two key roles.
Whether it is breaking up opposition attacks or contributing to United’s offensive play, McTominay is setting the standards for his team-mates to follow at Old Trafford.