Written by Anubhav Sarker
It’s no secret that United’s midfield was never the same after Michael Carrick left Old Trafford. Over the past 7 years, United have struggled to field someone who controls the game and dictates tempo like Carrick did. Kobbie Mainoo could now become that player to finally replace him. Calm and composed on the ball, with tremendous passing ability, Mainoo exudes confidence. You can hardly believe that the kid is only 18. He had a fantastic debut against Everton last evening in front of a raucous Goodison Park (that was albeit stunned early after Garnacho’s overhead kick goal).
At no point in the game did Mainoo break a sweat. Calmly picking up the ball from Onana, turning, and then circulating play with ease. His split-second decisions always seemed to come off. Whether it was a give-and-go or a driving run from the deep or a ball over the top to find the likes of Bruno and Shaw on the wings, he showcased his all-round repertoire with ease. It is no wonder that Erik ten Hag wanted him to be an important member of the first team squad from the get-go this season. His injury in pre-season was really unfortunate, but now he is back and raring to go.
He played for 71 minutes last night and at no point did he seem out of place. He looked like United’s most experienced midfielder on the pitch. Mainoo already possesses the same level of technical astuteness as Christian Eriksen. But it’s not just his on-the-ball qualities that make him stand out. He got a fair share of important blocks and recoveries in. The Academy graduate just seems to know where to be at the right time. And who can forget that goal-line clearance in the first half? If that went in, I wouldn’t be surprised if Everton rode the momentum and upped the ante even more.
United fans must help him keep his foot firmly on the ground. We’ve witnessed United fumble many a talent from Carrington over the years and in the predicament the club are in at the moment, they cannot afford to mismanage Mainoo. United will need to look after his minutes. A repeat of how Barcelona used Gavi and Pedri like a bar of soap cannot happen. This young kid is a generational talent and Manchester United would do well to protect him from the limelight. All efforts should go into polishing his talent and preparing him for a long-term career at the Theatre of Dreams.