Man Utd believe Kobbie Mainoo may change position with opportunities growing

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Written By Maya Cantina

Sensible voices urged caution and warned of the perils of loading too much pressure on young shoulders after Kobbie Mainoo’s full debut for Manchester United on Sunday. But such is the regard in which the youngster is held at Old Trafford, those in positions of power have known for some time that his days in the shadows were numbered.

Had it not been for a serious ankle injury sustained against Real Madrid in Houston in late July on the US tour, the cat would have been out of the bag long ago. A buzz has been following Mainoo for some time after the young midfielder has impressed at every step of his United journey since joining at the age of nine.

Mainoo has long been flagged as one of the most exciting young talents to come out of their academy, last season being named Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year. Previous winners are Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Alejandro Garnacho.

He was a pivotal member of the academy side which won the FA Youth Cup with United in 2022 and has always been a favourite of those who have worked with him at United down the years.

And a thread which runs through all their praise suggests his family have always had a big role in keeping him grounded. United’s Head of Academy Nick Cox said: “Kobbie has risen to every challenge that he has faced.

“He has been at the club from a really young age and has always been an exciting talent but, importantly, he’s shown the work rate and desire to succeed.”

Mainoo made his senior first-team debut in January, when Erik ten Hag selected him to start the 3-0 Carabao Cup quarter-final win against Charlton Athletic back in January last season. He went on to make two further first-XI appearances in that campaign, in the Emirates FA Cup against Reading, and then in the Premier League, coming on late in a 3-0 win over Leicester City in February.

Fewer than 24 hours on from that debut against Charlton, Mainoo was in Staffordshire to support his Under-18 teammates as they faced Stoke in the Youth Cup before reporting for first-team training at Carrington early the following morning.

Mainoo has been skilfully nurtured in his career by his father and a succession of coaches from Cheadle & Gatley Junior Football Club through Failsworth Dynamos and on to United.

Mainoo played above his age grade throughout his time with Failsworth and did so again when joining United’s academy aged nine. When he was at under 16 level at the club he was regularly playing U18 football – a sure sign of a decent talent.

Yet it could so easily have been City rather than United that Mainoo pledged his immediate future to as he was courted by both sides when before signing for United’s academy. His coach at Failsworth was Ian Kelly and he has revealed he was playing for both at the time.

“To be fair, I didn’t even know Kobbie had joined the academy at first,” he said. “His dad just told me one week that he was training at United, but I think Kobbie was actually at City and United. I think he was going to both because a lot do that.”

His choice has been vindicated with the FA Youth Cup Final win, last season’s first team breakthrough, and now wider recognition through his fantastic full debut on Sunday.

Academy staff consider Mainoo, who was the second youngest member of the Youth Cup winning team, talk about the midfielder’s technical ability and physical prowess. They also believe he he what it takes to play a more forward looking role.

With injuries to Casemiro, Mason Mount and Christian Eriksen freeing up space in the middle as the season charges towards the busy Christmas period, Mainoo looks sure to get plenty of opportunity to further embellish his growing reputation.

And in an age where England’s best player is a 20-year-old sold for £115million and is currently tearing up La Liga in a Real Madrid shirt and your 19-year-old teammate has just scored one of the goals of the century, keeping a lid on expectation is not the way it goes these days.

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