When the Manchester United players applauded the travelling faithful that packed out the far corner of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday evening, there was one telling moment that perfectly captured the fighting spirit still present within the Red Devils ranks. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to find a reaction from his players and determine which of his stars were still willing to run through brick walls for him, in order to save his job.
And as the Norwegian approached his midfielder Scott McTominay to congratulate him on his performance in the 3-0 win, the Scot embraced him with a firm hug, stern face and gritted teeth.
The vital three points – that prevented Solskjaer from being handed his P45 – had clearly meant so much to McTominay, who was not ready to part company with his manager just yet.
“He was Man of the Match. By a mile,” Solskjaer said of his 24-year-old midfielder after the match.
“That’s the Scott we’ve seen many times before, you know. He’s had his injuries, he’s had an operation this season but today I thought he was absolutely brilliant.
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At the back, Bruno Fernandes was chatting to substitute Fred while Cristiano Ronaldo was in dialogue with a United coach.
But near the front, McTominay stood tall and bellowed out “Let’s go! Let’s go!” as the rest of the United squad walked out in near silence.
The United academy graduate has evidently matured into one of Solskjaer’s go-to leaders, both in the dressing room and on the field.
Even captain Harry Maguire, who scored in the 3-2 win over Atalanta last month, appeared quiet.
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Outside, the home supporters were creating a hostile atmosphere in a bid to intimidate the visitors but McTominay was ready to stand up and be counted.
It was soon clear that United were not going to come flying out of the blocks as they started in ponderous fashion.
They were soon punished too when Josip Ilicic fired home the opener past David de Gea, who should have kept the Slovenian’s shot out.
United were level on the stroke of half-time though following a brilliantly worked team move that was finished off by Ronaldo, following a Guti-esque backheel from compatriot Fernandes.