Scott McTominay has been written off before – so when Roy Keane suggested he isn’t good enough for Manchester United, there were no tantrums.
“What did he say?” asked McTominay as he looked ahead to the Europa League Final against Villarreal, and the chance to show Sir Alex Ferguson got it right when he called the Scottish midfielder one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s key players.
“I didn’t see it, but it doesn’t matter. People talk. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and you have to respect that.
“But I’m not going to spit my dummy out and cry over something Roy Keane says.
“If that’s what he thinks, then that’s what he thinks.
“For me, it isn’t a drama. I’d be a fool if I went home worrying about what people think about me.”
Which leads neatly on to the view of the greatest manager in United’s history and the man who signed McTominay for the club as a schoolboy, back when the 6ft 3in midfielder worried he was coming up short.
McTominay said: “Just to hear a man like Sir Alex mention your name is a privilege, never mind when he’s saying nice things about you.
“But I can never think to myself, ‘I’ve got his approval, he thinks I’m a good player’. I can’t ever be satisfied, even if I’ve got Ole’s approval, because it’s always about driving myself further to become a better player.
“I don’t want to feel settled. If I do that then I won’t push myself to the limits that I’ve got.
“I know where I’m at. And I know that I have got a lot more left in the tank to push myself more.”
He added: “I was a late developer so I’m making up for lost time. I’ve still got many more years to grow into my body and become a proper man.”
The athleticism that has made McTominay such a powerful enforcer in United’s team was far from obvious when his father Frank used to drive him down to Manchester from the family home in Lancaster to play in junior games.
But the 24-year-old Scottish international wouldn’t change a thing about that now.
“When I was younger I was told I was too small, too slow, couldn’t jump,” recalled McTominay. “It felt like I was written off a million times. That was what made me.
“When you’re 5ft 6in and you’re getting kicked and battered by lads who are bigger and stronger, you’ve no choice about having the right attitude.
“You have to be a quick learner when you’ve got players flying into you who are fully grown men at the age of 18.
“I felt like a baby when I was 15.
“I still remember getting in the car with my dad and saying, ‘What can I do? I can’t get near any of them’.
“But United were patient with me and I developed an attitude and desire that toughened me up. One year later, I was 6ft 3in.
“I absolutely loved proving those people wrong and hearing their opinions change.”
McTominay was just five years old when he took his first steps towards his destiny, by joining United’s academy.
Former United boss Jose Mourinho gave him his debut in 2017, but the midfielder was left behind when the Reds beat Ajax to lift the Europa League later the same season.
“I watched the game in my digs,” recalled McTominay. “I remember thinking, ‘This has to be me when I’m older’.
“When I saw the lads with the trophy, I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
When United face Villarreal in Gdansk on Wednesday night it will be the 22nd anniversary of Solskjaer’s Treble-clinching winner in the Champions League Final and 112 years to the day since Sir Matt Busby was born.
“When you play for United, you are walking in the footsteps of greatness,” said McTominay.
“You learn about the responsibility you have representing this club when you come through the youth system.
“I know what the date of the final means.
“Anniversaries and birthdays like that have to be remembered.
“It’s important we think about these things and pay our respects to what has happened in the past.
“But we also want to write our own bit of history as well.”