Scott McTominay takes the chance to show his worth at Manchester United

The last week, in which he deputized for the injured Nemanja Matic to start and finish back-to-back important Premier League games for the first time, has been the best of Scott McTominay's still-short career at Manchester United.

First, the 22-year-old was in the line-up for the biggest game in English football: United vs. Liverpool. That he started ahead of £52 million signing Fred showed either that he was trusted more by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, or that Fred was not. Or both. Three days later, this time with Fred alongside, McTominay played in the win at Crystal Palace.

"McTominay was the obvious choice against Liverpool because he's an academy kid," Solskjaer said. "We had five academy kids on the pitch at one point. He knows what it means."

McTominay, who is under contract until at least 2023 after signing a new deal recently, provided stability in his first league start since December as several of his teammates left the game with injuries. He was steady, athletic and got into the right positions to help nullify Liverpool. He also ran further than any other player on the pitch.

"He's a tall, strong lad who can tackle, pass and run," European Cup-winning former United midfielder Paddy Crerand told ESPN. "He's got a good football brain, which you need as he's playing in the most important position on the pitch. Midfield players make the decisions about the passes which will lead to you winning a game. Scott can look after himself; he's big enough to frighten the opposition."

Hearing his manager says he was "excellent" is another thing for McTominay to draw upon.

"Confidence," says Crerand. "If you know that your manager believes in you -- and Scott does now -- then that's a big bonus. What then happens is that your teammates believe in you more and then the crowd also start to believe in you."

Few United fans have earmarked McTominay as a long-term first teamer, but his stock has gone up in recent days. He was perfectly effective against Palace, at one point muscling Wilfried Zaha off the ball, and finished the games alongside two other United academy graduates: Paul Pogba and 17-year-old debutant James Garner.

Given those who are absent, including midfielders Matic and Ander Herrera, Solskjaer does not have much choice but to trust young players, but its right that United continue to believe in young homegrown talent. Moreover, in Michael Carrick, McTominay has a coach to work with on a daily basis, who knows inside out the deep-lying, passing midfielder role. There could not be a better mentor.

Jose Mourinho also deserves credit for his role in McTominay's development. The former United manager thought highly of him and often told the story of the kid, who turned up as a child with his mum, rising to the first team. He used McTominay as something of a counter to Pogba, someone who would listen and follow instruction.

As a result, McTominay garnered criticism for being seen as Mourinho's chosen one as the manager's relationship with Pogba deteriorated. It was a present-day to the way Darren Fletcher was viewed when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge and plenty thought McTominay would have no future at the club after Mourinho departed. They are wrong.

In almost two years since making his debut at Arsenal in May 2017, McTominay has started 21 times and come on as substitute in a further 16 games, while also becoming a Scotland international. He is edging toward being an important squad player at Old Trafford, who can be trusted when more senior players are absent, like Matic. The Serbian international has been helpful and recently told McTominay that he was still developing as a player until the age of 26.

Born and raised in Lancaster, a town 50 miles north of Manchester, McTominay was spotted playing for a United training centre in Preston aged just five. He made his way through the age groups, but stood just five-feet-six-inches tall at 17. United, though, are patient with young players and a growth spurt followed; McTominay now measures up at six-feet-four.

He moved to Manchester as a scholar and attended school at Ashton-on-Mersey with other players as part of MANUSS, the programme that intends to give talented young footballers a good education in a normal state school close to United's Carrington training ground. McTominay shared living accommodation with Joe Riley, who made his first-team debut under Louis van Gaal and is now at third-tier Bradford City.

This week has shown, again, that good teams need McTominays: Young players who can cover for injuries and learn from more experienced pros generous enough to dispense advice. He has plenty of work to do but the last two games have seen the United boy became a United man.

McTominay is also an example to those in the academy and future recruits that, unlike at Manchester City where there is an excellent youth system but a manager reluctant to play homegrown players in the senior side, you can reach the highest level at Manchester United.