In the Man Utd midfield pecking order, Mainoo may already be in front of a few more seasoned players, but another opportunity for playing time may soon arise.
Although it will never be known, based on Erik ten Hag’s decisions, Kobbie Mainoo would have had a chance to start the season in the starting XI.
The 18-year-old was selected ahead of Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen to start against Real Madrid on the tour of the US after receiving the nod in previous friendlies. The teen had a memorable evening, but not for the right reasons.
After two minutes, his game was over when he needed assistance leaving the NRG Stadium pitch due to being unable to put any weight on his ankle as a result of a bizarre accident in which Rodrygo fell onto his leg during a different challenge.
The fact that this would be Mainoo’s second-biggest task in senior football caught him off guard. His first came in January when he started the League Cup quarterfinal match against Charlton for Manchester United.
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He continued for an hour, giving Erik ten Hag just the excuse of exhaustion after a fascinating shift. Later, Mainoo received a Premier League debut against Leicester and an FA Cup debut against Reading as compensation.
The midfielder missed out on more playing time near the conclusion of the season due to a minor injury, but he recovered in time for preseason. Due to his sore ankle, he was unable to participate in the first half of the regular campaign.
Although Mainoo made his first two senior appearances as an attacking midfielder, he would have played in the center of the field if he had been included. He participated in the position nine times in the academy and left with three goals and an assist, demonstrating his ability to perform well there.
Mainoo faces greater competition for the center positions with Sofyan Amrabat’s arrival on deadline day, although more openings could arise higher in the field. No one is replacing Bruno Fernandes in the supporting striker position other than in the event of a sickness or injury.
The United captain has occasionally been asked to play on the right. If Mainoo is not employed as the attacking midfielder for whatever reason, Donny van de Beek’s departure next week will solidify Mainoo’s position as the backup.
The Turkish window is open until September 15th, and Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, his most likely final destination, are both interested in the out-of-favor Dutchman. With each passing day, the likelihood of him leaving grows smaller, yet his presence on Mainoo might ease Ten Hag’s choice.
Most observers would assume that everyone wins when Van de Beek leaves, but Ten Hag stuck with his former Ajax star until his season-ending injury in January. But he was unproductive in his 10 games before his setback, and he hasn’t participated in a competitive game since.
In preseason play versus Lyon, he scored a goal, but the rest of the summer saw him essentially disappear. However, if Ten Hag is unwilling to let Van de Beek go, his overheads can persuade him to do so.
Financial Fair Play is an issue for United authorities, and removing Van de Beek from their payroll might help with that worry. In the event that an offer is made, they have six days to convince him.
If such is the case, Mainoo will have one fewer opponent for playing time in attacking midfield, and such an event would give him another way to earn more first-team minutes this season.