'Every time he plays for us he is improving. He's a great athlete, wins his challenges and is quick on his feet. He started settling us to be fair'
Manchester United's young midfielder Scott McTominay showed against Barcelona on Wednesday that he not only merits a starting place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side but that he can compete with the very best.
There were few standout United performances in the 1-0 home defeat but the 22-year-old McTominay certainly took his chance in a side that still lacks genuine creativity and attacking threat despite improvements under Solskjaer.
A midfield of McTominay, Fred, Diogo Dalot and Paul Pogba did not look, on paper, a strong match for the Spanish giants but they grafted and fought to limit the service provided to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
While Pogba was unable to lift his game for the big occasion, United academy product McTominay, who had shown glimpses of his quality under Jose Mourinho, played with real confidence.
"Scott McTominay was fantastic," said Solskjaer.
"Every time he plays for us he is improving. He's a great athlete, wins his challenges and is quick on his feet. He started settling us to be fair."
Owen Hargreaves, the former United midfielder now working as a pundit on BT Sport, was full of praise for the Scotland international.
"For that young man to be the best (United) player on the pitch when Fred cost 50 million pounds, Pogba cost 90 million -- it’s quite exceptional really," he said.
“That solidified him as a Manchester United regular. That’s a defining moment for the young man against that Barcelona team."
The midfielder himself felt that United had competed well after a slow start, but lacked a cutting edge.
"In the first 10 minutes we showed them far too much respect but after that we adapted really well and looked the better side," he said.
"Barcelona are top class, it's difficult to get the ball. It's not as easy as going out to press like mayhem.
"We have to do more in front of goal, score more goals. It's a big second leg to go. It's only halftime. We are Manchester United and you can never write us off," he added.