Kobbie Mainoo: The teenage phenomena who can rescue Manchester United's season

Published on 2 December 2023 at 20:00

Being anointed as Erik Ten Hag's midfield salvation is a very daunting prospect, but Kobbie Mainoo is thriving on one of football's biggest stages. His impressive debut in the Premier League in the 3-0 victory over Everton, suggested that Manchester United have unearthed a hidden gem who could resurrect the club's underwhelming season.


The 18 year old is a homegrown local lad from Stockport, just 12.8 miles from Carrington Training Ground, and joined Manchester United at the age of nine. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Mancunian Marcus Rashford who was born in Withington and progressed through the club's renowned academy to become a first team regular.

Mainoo was part of Travis Binnion's FA Youth Trophy winning Manchester United Under 18's team in 2021-22, in which the midfielder scored two goals on route to the final against Carlisle United.

He has always been praised for professionalism and determination envisaging from young that he would wear the famous red. The academy graduate was often a quiet and reserved young man, who expressed himself by coming to life on the football pitch.

His first senior start under Erik Ten Hag came in United's victory in the Quarter Final of the Carabao Cup last season, after being called up to first team training from October.

The number 37 was at the forefront of his manager's plans for this season with Ten Hag eager to bolster his midfield options but his opportunity was curtailed due to an injury sustained on pre-season tour.

As a result, Manchester United were prompted to search for a late midfield addition in the summer transfer window, eventually signing Sofryan Amrabat on loan from Fiorentina.

Morocco's World Cup star has struggled in his first three months in Manchester, where Ten Hag's injury crisis forced him to deploy Amrabat in an unorthodox left-back position to deputise for the injured Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw. When he has been utilised as a traditional number six he has been slow and lacklustre, unable to acclimatise to the intensity of the Premier League.


Manchester United's hamartia this season has been the midfielders inability to receive the ball facing there own goal which has become integral to Ten Hag's counter-attacking philosophy. The £50m arrival of Andre Onana was intended to enable the team to attack quickly through playing out from the back, although instead it has dampened the team's fluidity. 

This has coincided with the regression of Casemiro and Sofryan Amrabat who has been one-dimensional and static for United this season, often being negative on the ball choosing to play back to the centre-backs rather than go forward.

Mainoo demonstrated in his performance against Everton, his ability to bring something different to the team where he offers mobility and fluency on the ball. If he received the ball he was always positive and direct, enabling United to be a more threatening team on the break. 

The youngster is a versatile option for his manager, able to play as a number six, number eight or even in an advanced number 10 role.

Arguably, since the departure of Paul Pogba there has been a clear absence of ball carriers within the team who have confidence on the ball to break forward and penetrate the opposition.

Mainoo does this perfectly, he possesses the perfect balance of defensive assurance and attacking flair where on the ball he is a creative spark who has the quality to create chances and unnerve the opposition.

This role is fundamental to Erik Ten Hag's system functioning efficiently and Mainoo's emergence could offer United the ability to be faster in possession and more productive on the ball.


He appears the solution to Manchester United's midfield crisis, especially amid the outbreak of injuries plaguing the team. Ten Hag gave him his Champions League debut on Wednesday night in front of 50,000 Galatasaray fans and the teenager put in a very solid performance.

While it's extremely premature in his Manchester United career, the attention this young prospect has got over the last week has been overpowering. Ten Hag will be hoping his latest addition, will make an impact against Newcastle on Saturday as they look for a sixth consecutive win in the league.

Written by - Lewis Eadie


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