How Manchester United can bring the best out of Kobbie Mainoo

Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo.

Kobbie Mainoo’s tremendous rise at Manchester United can easily transform into a vital tactical powerplay for the side REUTERS/Phil Noble

Erik ten Hag may have found his Marcus Rashford in Kobbie Mainoo – a youth player who is proving to be the redemption of an otherwise tumultuous season.

Injuries and impressive youth performances propelled the starlet into regular football with the senior team but the recent laurels he has secured, the late FA Cup Winner, multiple Player of the Match performances and even securing the same with England during his first start – all of these point to a stellar player in the making.

However, his long-term success with the Red Devils will hinge on how they choose to deploy him for the foreseeable future. While common sense and positional continuity will dictate using him as a defensive midfielder as part of a pivot, or even a more traditional no.6, there may be a better role for him.

What kind of a player Kobbie Mainoo is?

Prior to musing on what that role may be, one must properly understand what makes him such an exciting prospect and why he has succeeded in such a brief period.

At his core, Mainoo is a good passer of the ball. His pass success percentage routinely falls into the near-perfect category.

This then transforms into good movement on the pitch. Despite his age, Mainoo has demonstrated exceptional vision. This ensures that he is to be seen across the pitch, especially in areas where he can then absorb pressure and create plenty of impact through dangerous passes from deep.

Given Erik ten Hag’s experiment with high press, a player like Mainoo can safeguard the defence through his impressive positional awareness as well as restart the attack quickly through his dribbling skills. The Liverpool game was a good demonstration of the same.

However, this still paints him as a defensive weapon, akin to how Nemanja Matic excelled at United and even shades of late-career Bastian Schweinsteiger.

But Mainoo may be closer to Paul Pogba. The two may possess different skill sets, but he has a similar intent to attack and move higher up the pitch in clutch situations and weave magic from there.

Therefore, it makes more sense to deploy someone like Mainoo slightly more upfront. This is particularly important given that the teenager lacks the kind of physical dynamism that is expected of a defensive midfielder in a competition as fierce as the Premier League.

Moreover, such a shift would also make sense keeping personnel and investments in mind. Mainoo could be viewed as the direct successor to what Christian Eriksen achieved to immense success last campaign.

As for the looming defensive midfielder, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and company should look to the market and make a worthwhile acquisition, perhaps someone like Amadou Onana.

The Everton midfielder has the physicality as well as legs to cover the ground. These traits should give Mainoo more freedom to impact the game in all phases of play.

All in all, Mainoo has all the facets of a potent player for the Theatre of Dreams. Ten Hag, or whoever the manager is come summer must now ensure that the tactics match personnel and Mainoo realises his true potential.