Kobbie Mainoo of Manchester United

‘So composed, so graceful’: What Keane, Neville & others said about Kobbie Mainoo’s ‘unbelievable’ Man Utd debut

Erik ten Hag handed Kobbie Mainoo his full Manchester United Premier League debut against Everton and the teenage midfielder made quite the impression.

The 18-year-old had impressed for United during pre-season, but he was forced to watch the start of the season from the sidelines due to injury.

Fast forward a few months and Mainoo looks like natural in the starting XI. We’ve gathered the thoughts of eight pundits and experts who were left impressed with the United teenager’s performance against Everton.

Roy Keane

“Unbelievable,” Keane told Sky Sports when asked about Mainoo’s performance “We don’t want to get too carried away but I’m sure we will.

“He looked like he always had time on the ball today, his decision-making, in terms of when to go long when to go short, in terms of off the ball as well. What an all-round performance.

“The club obviously think highly of him. With the build-up to the game today, coming to Everton, for the manager to put him in, he and the staff around the place obviously must trust him.

“Good luck to the kid. He was outstanding. It’s a great start for him. Let’s hope he stays injury-free and gets a run of games for Man United because he looked a Man United type of player.

“Nice and brave, lots of courage. I loved watching him.”

Gary Neville

“It was impressive and there’s no point getting carried away because the reality is he’s got 17 or 18 years in front of him and a lot of work to do,” Neville told Sky Sports.

“But sometimes when you see a player come in for the first time and their temperament. He’s obviously got technical ability and skill, you don’t play for Manchester United in the first place if you haven’t got that you don’t get picked by Erik ten Hag if you haven’t got that – but what you don’t know is how they’ll handle it.

“He’s gone in here at Goodison Park, in what could have been the most ferocious atmospheres for many a year in a hostile environment, and he looked class. We know he’s class, we know he’s got class, but he looked class in that environment.

“I always judge players when it’s the most difficult part of the game. When Man United had their most difficult period in that first half I thought he was the only player who showed up, the only player who still looked like himself.

“The biggest compliment I can pay him, and it hurts to say it, is that he looked like a Man City player. I thought that was someone that Pep Guardiola would look at and be thinking ‘I’d want him in my midfield, that’s what my midfield players do’.

“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. At 18 to be doing that out there – and he’ll have tougher games, got a challenge in front of him, there’ll be injuries, ups and downs, he’s playing at a club with huge demands. But that was very, very good.”

Erik ten Hag

“He has a lot of abilities and it was a really disappointing moment in pre-season when he got so badly injured,” Ten Hag told reporters. “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.”

Bruno Fernandes

“He’s the man of the match. For his age, he has so much qualities. He sees things before others,” Fernandes explained via Fabrizio Romano.

“He is comfortable with the ball and never makes a mistake. Kobbie put in a great performance yesterday, for sure. Very good!”

Wes Brown

“I like him, and he’s shown a bit of everything he can do. Taking the ball, as a young kid he wants the ball all the time, he’s very comfortable,” Brown told MUTV.

“His reactions are very good, his goal-line save. He’s obviously not 100 per cent match fit, but he’s shown the manager he’s ready, to get on with it. I’m very happy he’s back.”

Leon Osman

“Kobbie Mainoo has had a really impressive start, the youngster. Really comfortable on the ball, really relaxed in possession despite the atmosphere,” Osman told BBC Sport.

“The young lad Mainoo in the middle of the pitch, he’ll be really pleased with his full debut. Getting on the ball making things tick right in the heart of the field, right where it’s most congested he was the calming influence for Manchester United.”

Robbie Earle

“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.”

Adam Crafton

“This is extremely hasty and it’s one game and you’re going to shout at me but given England’s particular circumstances in holding midfield (Henderson/Phillips), you could probably imagine a scenario where Mainoo breaking through at United sneaks him into the Euros squad,” the Athletic reporter tweeted.

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