The midfielder started against Premier League champions Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, having been picked ahead of star man Paul Pogba in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg against Sevilla.
McTominay has been shown great faith by manager Jose Mourinho, but only because he’s earned the trust of the Portuguese with a number of solid and competent performances.
He has never looked fazed by the occasion, whether on his debut, his first start or after being thrown in at the deep end in the Champions League.
Smalling believes that has come from his confidence in training, where he’s been crunching into tackles.
“He’s been training with us for quite a while but he’s been sort of thrust into some big games and he’s not phased,” Smalling said.
“You can see him crunching into tackles and that’s what we do in training. It’s good that he’s stepped up to his mark.”
Mourinho hasn’t brought through a huge number of young players, with McTominay as the main example. However, he’s allowed a significant number to train with the first team and travel with the matchday squad such as Joe Riley, Matthew Olosunde, Matty Willock and Demi Mitchell, as well as handing debuts out.
That experience is vital in their development, as shown by McTominay. If he can handle training with United’s first team, and be confident in that, when it comes to the real deal, that confidence can continue.