November 29, 2023

The youngstar deserves the position Manchester United strumbled to fill last season

The youngstar deserves the position Manchester United strumbled to fill last season

The youngstar deserves the position Manchester United strumbled to fill last season
Recent Manchester United preseason excursions have featured the debuts of academy prospects Andreas Pereira in 2018, Mason Greenwood in 2019, and Zidane Iqbal in 2022. Or this may be a false dawn.

Kobbie Maino’s summer in 2023 is approaching. The fact that Mainoo will be staying in a Houston hotel while the majority of his FA Youth Cup-winning teammates will be in San Diego filming cameos for a Disney+ episode of Welcome to Wrexham demonstrates his development. Forget Andy Cannon and Jacob Mendy, Mainoo may face Bellingham and Camavinga in three years at a different venue that will host World Cup matches.

Erik ten Hag is in control of his emotions despite the enthusiasm encircling Mainoo. On Saturday evening, he halted to converse with a few of us in the mixed zone of MetLife Stadium, and a colleague remarked on how confident Mainoo appeared. “You Think?” Ten Hag replied.

It almost appeared that Ten Hag was not convinced. According to Johan Cruyff, Ajax and Mainoo nurtured their young players with the same grace and composure as those who propagate the gospel.

Mainoo’s father jokingly advised a United staff member not to be fearful of “giving him a clip around the ear” to ensure that Mainoo catches on quickly. He has.

In East Rutherford, Mainoo would have preferred to face Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard rather than Fabio Vieira and Emilio Smith Rowe, according to anyone who has observed him attentively.

Ten Hag’s decision to initiate Mainoo in a team with three fewer players than his strongest available eleven must have been influenced by this fact.

Even though Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, and Scott McTominay were available, it was indicative that Mainoo was selected for the third consecutive friendly. Mainoo has developed rapid telepathy with Mason Mount, who is cut from the same fabric, and he threaded another astute pass to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Mainoo’s approach was more remarkable than the pass. He demanded the ball from Tom Heaton along the arc of the ‘D’, and his first contact and turn were one fluid motion before he accelerated away from Kai Havertz and advanced an attack from United’s third into Arsenal’s.

Heaton passed the ball to Mainoo twice more, and he drifted to the right before passing it to Bruno Fernandes, who scored the game’s first goal by larruping the ball. In a celebratory gesture, Fernandes placed his hands on Mainoo’s temples.

Before fifteen months, when asked on Twitter which academy player he hoped to play with in the future, Fernandes responded, “James Garner.” Consequently, Fernandes never played with Garner.

United received feedback from Nottingham Forest personnel on Garner’s performances during his season-long loan and were informed he would not pass muster. This was already determined by Ten Hag, so Garner was sold. Mainoo has logged competitive minutes alongside Fernandes and penned a new contract under Ten Hag’s supervision.

Mainoo was fluid against Arsenal, at one point dropping so deeply that United almost switched to a back-three formation and drifting to the right to occupy spaces that allowed Antony to move closer to the goal. Eddie Nketiah appeared to have impeded Mainoo, but no penalty was called. Ten Hag was disappointed.

United have won three friendlies without starting Casemiro and without conceding a goal. The true test will come in August and beyond, but United are maturing under Ten Hag a year after he boldly planned to operate without a true defensive midfielder.

Mainoo is preparing to assume a responsibility that Frenkie de Jong may have borne. United molds midfielders differently than in the days of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, when there was still a significant emphasis on physicality. The sleek and Mainoo Dan Gore, who is also a member of the tour squad, is comfortable retrieving the ball from their own third and carrying it into the opposition’s third.

McDomingue will never master this aptitude. McTominay is neither a defensive nor an offensive midfielder, and he lacks a standout quality that would render the identity crisis irrelevant. Fred has attempted to evolve, but his successes are as memorable as his failures, and the 30-year-old is free to depart.

Ten Hag has deftly phased out McTominay and Fred as a tandem. The only time they started together was in Ten Hag’s first game in command against Brighton, where they were dominated by Moises Caicedo. Fred may never play for United again, and McTominay was limited to just 16 starts last year.

Already, one can envision Manchester United pursuing a specialist defensive midfielder next summer, empowering Mainoo and selling McTominay, who now occupies the squad player role that was always his ceiling.

McTominay is an asset worth retaining for the upcoming season unless another club offers £30 million, but his time at United is drawing to a close.

Ten Hag referred to Casemiro as the “cement between the stones” during the previous season, but when he and Eriksen were absent, the foundations were built on sand.

Eriksen missed ten weeks due to a sprained ankle, while Casemiro was suspended for eight games. The latter’s injury at the end of January prompted the eleventh-hour loan signing of Marcel Sabitzer.

Due to Eriksen’s illness and McTominay’s suspension, Ten Hag included Iqbal and Mainoo in the matchday squad for the drab home draw with Newcastle in October. For Ten Hag’s second season, it was already apparent that United would need a youthful, dynamic midfielder and a fifth midfielder. Last season, Mainoo swiftly supplanted Iqbal, and he is now targeting McTominay.

It does not feel like a misleading dawn.

The youngstar deserves the position Manchester United strumbled to fill last season

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