Manchester Evening News

Mainoo can be everything that Pogba was supposed to be

- By STEVEN RAILSTON

MAKING comparison­s between establishe­d and young players is often not helpful, but it’s inevitable.

Kobbie Mainoo has been likened to Paul Pogba and his performanc­e for United’s Under-21s against Salford City in October intensifie­d the comparison­s.

Mainoo recorded two assists and he sprayed some beautiful passes under the floodlight­s. His movement was reminiscen­t of Pogba’s and the M.E.N’s match report from that game said: “The midfielder has outgrown academy football and his talent is needed in the first-team.”

Mainoo was carefully handled after his return from injury and he featured for the U21s in a handful of games, but it was only a matter of time before Erik ten Hag gave him opportunit­ies.

The 18-year-old has been exceptiona­l since breaking into the firstteam this season and he’s now one of the first names on the team sheet, which is the ultimate compliment.

Speaking last year shortly after his senior debut, someone who is close to Mainoo confidentl­y said he would play for England and he now has an outside chance of making the Three Lions squad for this summer’s European Championsh­ip after making just 12 appearance­s for United.

His progress has been remarkable and he possesses all the attributes to become a worldclass talent, just like Pogba did when emerging from the club’s academy in the late

2000s.

Pogba left on a free transfer to join Juventus in the summer of 2012 after failing to agree a new contract when it might have been advisable to build a team around him.

The Frenchman returned to Old Trafford in 2016 but his second stint wasn’t a success and supporters do not remember his time in a red shirt fondly. There is no chance of Mainoo leaving on a free transfer but there is a feeling that the team should be built around him.

United have developed another special talent and he has the temperamen­t and talent to succeed. Mainoo is understood to be quiet, likeable and kept well-grounded by his parents.

There were character issues with Pogba during his time at United and such problems with Mainoo seem highly unlikely to happen. He has the talent to eclipse Pogba’s legacy in Manchester and comparison­s between himself and Frenkie de Jong have also been

By pushing him in training you can see he makes such good progress Erik ten Hag on Kobbie Mainoo

merited.

Mainoo has operated as a deeplying midfielder in the majority of his senior appearance­s, but those who know him best have suggested his long-term future will be as a No.8.

Adding goals to his game has been privately identified as an area for improvemen­t and his two goals in two games against Newport

County and Wolves show he’s progressin­g. Mainoo’s matchwinne­r at Molineux gets better every time you watch it. It was a moment of individual brilliance and Rasmus Hojlund described him as a ‘generation­al talent’ after the game.

Erik ten Hag also gave him a glowing assessment. “I think very quickly I saw him,” Ten Hag said. “I think last autumn I saw him for the first time and at that moment I thought he was playing a little bit too comfortabl­e. I saw him playing in the U21s, he should be much more dominant.

“We pushed him a lot on that side, by pushing him in the training and you see he makes such good progress and he is almost progressin­g from game to game.

“And of course, it’s wonderful to see and I hope he stays calm like he is, as he did with his goal as well. He is determined, he is a good character and I hope he keeps going with this progress.”

In a separate interview with MUTV, Ten Hag added: “What he did was great, no doubt about that. He’s a calm person and it looks like he grows from game to game, so hopefully he keeps this going. I will push and support him, but he has to do it. He has great abilities and in the future, he can be a great player. Today, we have seen it, but also in the last couple of games.”

Ten Hag has a strong record of developing talent and Mainoo is at the right place to take his game to another level. His potential is frightenin­g and a new star from Carrington has been born – he could be everything Pogba was supposed to be for United.

 ?? ?? Kobbie Mainoo makes it 4-3 against Wolves
Kobbie Mainoo makes it 4-3 against Wolves
 ?? ?? Kobbie Mainoo hits a late winner against Wolves and is congratula­ted by Alejandro Garnacho; Below, Paul Pogba
Kobbie Mainoo hits a late winner against Wolves and is congratula­ted by Alejandro Garnacho; Below, Paul Pogba

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