Kobbie Mainoo is the real deal

Why 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo could be both England & Man United's savior 🙌

Outside of Kate Middleton, no one has dominated British tabloids lately quite like Kobbie Mainoo. The 18-year-old sensation has been a revelation for Man United since making his first Premier League start in November, and was the best player in the pitch in the Red Devils’ thrilling 4-3 FA Cup win over Liverpool.

But prior to this season, Mainoo wasn’t even the most famous person in his family. His older brother, Jordan, was a contestant on season five of Love Island. The spotlight is new to Kobbie, but he’s handling the pressures of being anointed the next big thing for English soccer with the calmness of a 28-year-old veteran – which is exactly what make him so special.

Wise beyond his years

Born in the Mancunian suburb of Stockport, Mainoo joined Man United’s academy at the age of nine. There, he quickly ascended the ranks, being named Young Player of the Year before making his debut with the senior squad last January in the EFL Cup.

Hampered by injury in the offseason, Mainoo made his first league start in the Red Devils’ 3-0 win over Everton on November 26th. He instantly impressed.

Mainoo was named Man of the Match for his performance, where he interrupted seemingly every Everton attack and dictated the game’s tempo with his tidy passing and composure in tight spaces.

That’s not to say he’s merely a Sergio Busquets regen. While the main attributes that jump off the page when watching Mainoo play are his press-resistance, ball-winning ability, and industriousness, he is more than capable of dribbling past defenders and pinging long balls over the top.

His well-roundedness and innate feel for knowing when to speed up or take that extra half-second on the ball make him especially precocious, and have instantly elevated Erik ten Hag’s side. 📈

  • Across all competitions this season, the Red Devils have lost only 33% of the games in which Mainoo plays compared to 50% of the games in which he doesn’t.

  • United have also scored more (1.85 GF per 90’) and conceded fewer goals (1.45 GA per 90’) with him in the lineup than without (1.35 GF per 90’, 1.7 GA per 90’).

More importantly, Mainoo gives United something they’ve sorely lacked since Ten Hag took over: structure. For far too long, United have lacked a consistent identity, flip-flopping between a possession-dominant team that builds up slowly from the back and a counter-attacking side whose modus operandi is hoofing it up to Rashford and Garnacho.

He plays like a Manchester City player

Gary Neville

Mainoo gives United balance a much-needed spine in the midfield that has earned him the highest of praise. It comes as no surprise that…

Gareth Southgate wants a taste

The England manager called up the midfielder to the Three Lions’ senior squad for their friendly tune-ups headed into this summer’s Euros. Mainoo made a brief cameo in England’s 1-0 loss to Brazil on Saturday, becoming the 11th-youngest England player this century. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 

His inclusion in the squad is as much about his quality and rapid adjustment to the Premier League as it is England’s lack of depth in defensive midfield. With Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice set to occupy the other midfield positions, Southgate has several options to consider for the No 6, with Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, and now Mainoo all vying for the supporting role.

Will he start in Germany? While it’s still too early to tell for sure, it seems Mainoo is currently second in the pecking order behind Gallagher. That said, he did look sharp in his 15-minute appearance, showcasing his tricky turns and tidiness on the ball. Expect him to get more minutes when England host Belgium at Wembley on Tuesday.