Manchester United's Kobbie Mainoo during the Carabao Cup Quarter-Final match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Tuesday January 10, 2023.

Kobbie Mainoo marked his Man Utd return by inventing a gravity-defying pass

Halloween was particularly dank in Manchester this year, with rain tumbling down and the darkness enveloping the city before the day had truly begun. If the ecosystem wanted to reflect the mood of Manchester United supporters, it had done so perfectly.

United’s 2023-24 campaign is already threatening to go the same way as too many over the past decade, with the club stranded in mid-table and Erik ten Hag slowly cracking under the pressure.

Fires have multiplied like stray cats at a speed dating event. Expensive signings rot on the bench and Premier League rivals form an orderly queue to humiliate United at Old Trafford. City’s crushing win in the derby was no surprise to anybody with eyes or a brain.

The temptation to look for saviours on the horizon is beloved by journalists reliant on United for clicks in the dog-eat-dog world of Google traffic. It also heavily hints at the lack of structure at the club.

But, despite any entrenched cynicism, the return of Kobbie Mainoo is timely for the beleaguered Ten Hag.

Mainoo made his Red Devils debut in January, ending last season with three appearances in all competitions, while he was involved in the team’s preparations for the current campaign before picking up an ankle injury against Real Madrid in the United States.

Despite his age, it is believed that Ten Hag views Mainoo as a player capable of being a regular in his United side. Considering that Casemiro and Christian Eriksen have the combined mobility of an asthmatic ant, the 18-year-old would inject crucial energy into Ten Hag’s midfield.

But Mainoo is no headless chicken. As United’s under-21’s travelled to Salford for the Gary Neville derby in the EFL Cup, he set about sprinkling the occasion with quality gifts like a man handing out Ferrero Rochers to trick-or-treaters.

As Salford’s seasoned pros hustled and bustled, Mainoo happily skipped around meaty challenges and swished the ball around with frightening accuracy.

Receiving the ball on the left flank, United’s talented youngster drifted past two opponents with the jinking footwork of a man navigating a minefield before lofting a pass over the static defence.

The Salford crowd gasped in awe, watching the spherical orb float heavenly as if its path had been preordained by God. Back on the mortal soil, Joe Hugill steadied himself before using Mainoo’s pass to attack the opposition penalty area.

Speaking on MUTV on Friday morning, United‘s U21 manager Travis Binnion explained how he sees Mainoo’s return progressing:

“Yeah, listen. It’s important he gets those minutes. He’ll feel a lot more confident after that.

“I don’t know what’s in store for him in the next few weeks but he’s going to try and keep building up now & hopefully, he can get in and around that first-team squad.”

It’ll be surprising if Mainoo isn’t back with the first team sooner rather than later. While United’s problems are too embedded for the 18-year-old to be any more than a plaster over a bullet wound, the sight of an academy graduate strutting his stuff would invigorate the Old Trafford crowd.

If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Mainoo is certainly good enough.

By Michael Lee

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