Scott McTominay was already being labelled as Manchester United's 'best player' around 18 months ago.

While others might lay claim to that tag right now, including Portuguese sensation Bruno Fernandes, there can be no denying how important the Scotland midfielder, 24, has become under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The platform for his best season to date was laid down by none other than Jose Mourinho - the man who made that lofty claim about McTominay shortly after being appointed by Premier League rivals Tottenham.

Speaking in December 2019, when addressing criticism of how he handles young players, former United manager said: "Scott McTominay is only the best player at Manchester United."

Returning the favour in October 2020, McTominay told Sky Sports: "I don't want to speak too much about previous managers, but Jose's very special to me.

"He still keeps in contact with me now and keeps in touch with me after games and different things like that. I owe a tremendous amount of credit to him, because if it wasn't for him, I might not be sat in this seat."

You get the feeling Mourinho wouldn't have been in a rush to message his former protégé this week, though.

Mourinho wasn't happy after his side's 3-1 defeat to United

United were able to all-but confirm their place in the Champions League ahead of next season, courtesy of a 3-1 comeback victory against Spurs on Sunday which, in turn, leaves their opponents in a difficult fight to clinch top-four place.

It was a result that wasn't without controversy, either, as McTominay was deemed the guilty party in a hotly-contested VAR decision which saw Edinson Cavani have a would-be opener chalked off.

However, that heated moment can now be looked on as a footnote as United hit back from Son Heung-min's strike to claim three points thanks to goals from Fred, Cavani and substitute Mason Greenwood.

McTominay picked out three teammates for praise during his post-match interview in north London.

However, there can be no denying his own ever-growing worth to the United cause in star-studded engine room that also includes Fred, Fernandes and French World Cup winner Paul Pogba.

Despite competition from those players, the Scot has already recorded new season-bests in terms of games played, goals scored and assists.

Of course, his midfielder anchor role is defined not by goal contributions, but the ability to avert danger and help United's back defence keep as many clean sheets as possible.

As highlighted by his all-action, two-goal show against arch rivals Leeds United in December, though, McTominay has more than one string to his impressive bow.

You get the sense, too, that there is even more to come.

With seven goals in 52 appearances for club and country already this season, the academy graduate is expected to play a crucial role between now and the summer right across the board.

Despite an eye-catching victory at Tottenham, it would take a monumental collapse from Manchester City to hand United a first Premier League title post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

Perhaps that honour is to come soon enough, but McTominay has eyes on a first piece of silverware.

In that particular quest, United already have one foot in the semi-finals of the Europa League ahead of the second leg clash with Spanish side Granada at Old Trafford on Thursday night.

With a handy, yet not insurmountable, 2-0 advantage, McTominay and his team-mates can tackle that one with cautious optimism - and Solskjaer will almost-certainly choose a strong line-up against the La Liga visitors.

Just as he will for Scotland ahead of their grand return to the international stage during this summer's delayed European Championships, you would expect to see McTominay near the top of that team-sheet.

Perhaps the man who handed him a United debut against Arsenal back in May 2017 was right all along.