Scott McTominay says Manchester United are focused on consistency rather than their current place in the pecking order after Erik ten Hag’s under-fire side moved within three points of Manchester City.
This has been a challenging, and at times chastening, second season in the hotseat for the Dutchman, who won the Carabao Cup and finished third in the Premier League during a promising first campaign.
United also lost the FA Cup final to a City side that went on to match their neighbours’ historic 1999 treble triumph by lifting the Champions League trophy after beating Inter Milan.
Last season’s dominance and October’s 3-0 Old Trafford loss to Pep Guardiola’s men highlighted the gap in quality, yet the stumbling Red Devils are now within touching distance of their rivals.
City fell to a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa as United bounced back from the lifeless loss to Newcastle by beating Chelsea 2-1 thanks to McTominay’s brace, moving them within three points of their fourth-placed neighbours.
When that was pointed out to the matchwinner, along with the bunched-up standings, McTominay said: “We barely pay attention to that in terms of we just concentrate on how we’re playing and if the style of football that we’re playing is how the manager wants.
“In games like tonight it was and against Newcastle it wasn’t, so we have to find that balance between us where we try and do that every single week.
“I felt like that was a game where we had to come out and show to the fans that we have full focus on this game, we want to play well and give a reaction.
“It has to be like that every week, though, which is something that (when) I was in the dressing room… there was players speaking about it.
“(It) can’t just be one game where we need to show a reaction. It has to come out and show that every week.”
McTominay said he was grateful to the United fans for “sticking with us throughout anything that goes on at this football club” after another difficult few days.
Reports over some player unhappiness with Ten Hag emerged after the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle, which the Scotland international knows saw them fall well short of what is required.
Making his mark pic.twitter.com/B7ccXeSiMR
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 7, 2023
“We know the fans are extremely demanding and so are we as players, so that’s what we expect,” the six-goal midfielder told MUTV.
“Going back to the game against Newcastle, we know that was nowhere near good enough and that’s still stinging us.
“We can’t have them anomalies where we go somewhere and we don’t play as well as what we can, and maybe not show as much fight as what we could as well.
“But tonight is a building block and something that we can take step by step without getting too carried away.”
United now refocus on Saturday’s home match against Bournemouth, with stuttering Chelsea heading to Everton the following day.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men were second best for large parts at Old Trafford but could have scored more than Cole Palmer’s intelligent equaliser.
Chelsea captain Reece James, who came off the bench at half-time, said: “We go out there wanting to win but it’s still a young squad and we are learning game by game.
“At the moment it’s quite tough, but we know we have the capabilities to win every game.
“We need to go back to the drawing board and review the game, and then prepare for Everton. We need to prepare right and start climbing the table.”
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