Pundit spots 'incredible' Kobbie Mainoo moment that convinced him he'll be a Man Utd star
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It was a full Premier League debut that earned praise from one of the most hard-to-impress figures in the game. "He was outstanding," said Roy Keane. "It's a great start for him."
Keane's former teammate Gary Neville would later suggest Kobbie Mainoo was the type of player Pep Guardiola would want in his side, just weeks after Manchester City were linked with a move for the teenager.
“Thankfully Man United have got him because he looks so composed, so graceful, always looking over his shoulder, knowing where everyone is, letting it run across his body," Neville added.
After a lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury, Mainoo made his much-anticipated return to the first-team fold on Sunday when Erik ten Hag's side came up against Everton at Goodison Park.
The 18-year-old midfielder kept things ticking in the middle, often showing composure beyond his years. Rather than use the 'safe' option and go backwards, he would often make progressive forward passes.
Bruno Fernandes, another admirer of Mainoo, said after the game that the youngster "sees things before others."
Mainoo impressed many on his return, including former Premier League midfielder Robbie Earle, who admired his performance from afar.
In fact, Earle spotted one moment in particular that impressed him most – and it sums up Mainoo's self-confidence.
“He did something in the second half where he dropped between two centre-backs, the ball got worked back to him and he took a touch, stood on the ball, and he almost went to Everton, ‘come and get it’," Earle told CBS Sports.
“[It’s] something you do when you are 27, 28, 29 when you are confident, in front of a big crowd.
“He waited, he looked around, he saw the pass wasn’t on, he baited Calvert-Lewin, then he passed the ball, did a little give and go, and that, regardless of ability, that mentality, 18 years of age is incredible.”
✅rides the challenges (shoulder to shoulder)— ThisAintPurpleGrape (@SloughR) November 27, 2023
✅turn and move (sharply)
✅receives ball and distributes in the face of the press
What can’t this boy do?#Mainoo #ManchesterUnited #premierleague
Video Courtesy @MadnessFc4 pic.twitter.com/Oc4shbKFbn
After the full-time whistle, Erik ten Hag hinted that Mainoo could play a major role in the coming weeks after his impressive performance against Everton.
"He has a lot of abilities and it was a really disappointing moment in pre-season when he got so badly injured," Ten Hag said. "For him but also for our team, because I know he can progress a lot if he plays many of such games as today.
"I know young players will develop very quickly and we thought it was the moment to bring him in. We prepared him properly but he did a great job and now he has to build on this."