Manchester United’s successful squads of years gone by have always been built up by stars from the youth academy and Kobbie Mainoo could be their next star in waiting.
From David Beckham to Marcus Rashford, United have arguably the best youth academy in the country. They have successfully churned out some world stars and their current crop of youngsters looks promising.
Erik ten Hag will be more than keen on getting some younger players involved with the squad this season as his side currently has an average age of 26.5, which is the ninth highest in the league.
A large reason the Dutch manager was brought to Old Trafford in the first place was because of his excellent track record with developing youngsters.
After all, it was Ten Hag who played a huge role in the development of players such as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt at Ajax.
Ten Hag’s Ajax team was built around its young stars and the Dutch manager has already handed out some first-team opportunities to some youngsters this season.
Mainoo is a player who has the entire United fanbase interested right now. The 17-year-old was given his first-team debut this season by Ten Hag and he played a cameo role in their Premier League triumph against Leicester.
He’s also had first-team opportunities in the EFL and FA Cup this season. Even after winning the Carabao Cup, Ten Hag had some words of wisdom for the youngster.
Erik has a chat with Kobbie Mainoo during the celebrations ❤️
— utdreport (@utdreport) February 26, 2023
There’s been plenty of talk about United being interested in signing a midfielder in the mould of De Jong, but Mainoo possesses a similar unique skillset.
Of course, it is still early days in his development, but all of the signs have been hugely promising this season from his first-team cameos to his Under 21s performances.
Ten Hag had been made aware of the youngster after impressing during their pre-season camp. “He did very well during the winter camp in Spain,” Ten Hag told Manchester Evening News.
“He also did very well against Everton in a friendly. He deserved to play, so I’m happy to give him the opportunity – it’s about deserving it.”
The 17-year-old has been a regular starter for the Under 21s in the Premier League 2 and his recent display against Crystal Palace has got everyone talking.
Capable as playing as a six or an eight, Mainoo always has an eye for a forward pass, but he is composed enough to know when to slow things down.
His highlight reel against Crystal Palace in the Premier League 2 highlights how comfortable he is on the ball and that he has an eye for a defence-splitting pass.
Kobbie Mainoo vs Crystal Palace
17 years old. 💎pic.twitter.com/21WjMpeNcm
— natsuo 〽️ (@natsuovz) February 20, 2023
It’s well known by now that Ten Hag doesn’t hand out first-team opportunities for the sake of it. As a youngster or established member of the squad, every player has to earn their place.
United’s head of Academy, Nick Cox has been particularly pleased with Mainoo’s development and the chances he has been afforded in the first team.
“[We are] always delighted when a young boy makes a debut, particularly when they start a game,” Cox told the club website. “It’s very different coming off the bench than starting a game, so he’s had to earn that [against Charlton].
“The manager [Ten Hag] doesn’t do favours. You play in the team if you’re good enough. You don’t get special treatment because you’re a young lad who’s come through the system, you’ve got to earn it. He’s done that and that’s great.”
He has played 12 Premier League 2 matches this season and has also featured in the EFL Trophy. The youngster was also on the bench for each of United’s Europa League games with Barcelona, which would have been some experience.
Ten Hag clearly sees the value in Mainoo and he has the ability to go right to the top.