Kobbie Mainoo posseses balance, poise, impeccable movement, doesn't panic under pressure, and never gets fazed by big occasions.
Kobbie Mainoo’s full Premier League debut for Manchester United against Everton could not have gone better.
Gary Neville and Roy Keane lauded the 18-year-old, with Neville going as far as saying that he was the sort of player Pep Guardiola would want in his Manchester City side.
The youngster recently returned from an injury he sustained during the Red Devils’ pre-season last summer, and now looks set to establish himself in Erik ten Hag’s side.
In this article, FootballOrbit brings you what you need to know about the latest exciting prospect at Old Trafford.
Kobbie Boateng Mainoo was born on the 19th of April, 2005, in Stockport, England to Ghanaian parents.
He started his youth career at Cheadle & Gatley Junior Football Club, before joining Manchester United at the age of 9 — though he continued to represent his local club until he was 12.
He made his debut for United’s Under-18 team as early as October 2020, when he was still only 15.
He was often involved off the bench for that age group that season, before becoming a regular in 2021/22 — during which he also began to get chances with the Under-23s.
FA Youth Cup success
Moreso, Mainoo was a key component of Travis Binnion’s FA Youth Cup‑winning side of 2022. He started every game as United triumphed for the first time since 2011 in the prestigious competition.
He scored twice during the tournament and was a calming influence in the final — played in front of 67,000 fans at Old Trafford — as United defeated Nottingham Forest to secure the trophy.
It was an early indication that Mainoo is not fazed by big occasions and can easily handle the pressure that comes with it.
Kobbie Mainoo’s involvement with the first team
He signed his first professional contract with Manchester United in May 2022.
Furthermore, his performances — including a good midfield display against Carlisle United in the EFL Trophy — earned him a callup to the senior squad for training in October 2022.
He was named on the bench for the first time on 16 October, ahead of a Premier League match against Newcastle United.
Kobbie got rare a chance to impress Erik ten Hag during the 2022 FIFA World Cup break, and managed to get himself on the scoresheet in a friendly against Spanish side Cadiz.
Subsequently, Ten Hag rewarded him with his first team debut.
Mainoo made his competitive debut on the 10th of January 2023, starting in a 3-0 EFL Cup win over Charlton Athletic, aged just 17.
Moreover, he made his Premier League debut on the 19th of February by coming on as a substitute in a 3-0 win against Leicester City.
Man Utd Youth Player of the Year
The 2022/23 season ended on a high for the precocious youngster when he won the club’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award.
Previous winners of the prestigious award include Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Wes Brown and Marcus Rashford; while his immediate predecessor was Alejandro Garnacho.
2023/24: Breakout season for Kobbie Mainoo?
Mainoo travelled with the Manchester United squad on their 2023/24 pre-season tour in the United States. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands by putting in impressive displays that belied his age.
However, he picked up an injury that ruled him out of play for the start of the season.
Returning from injury, Kobbie made his first competitive start for Manchester United on the 26th of November 2023, in a 3-0 Premier League victory away at Everton.
The intensely charged atmosphere at Goodison Park could have been overwhelming for an inexperienced 18-year-old. But he coped brilliantly, proving to be one of the best players on the pitch.
Mainoo was a composed midfield presence. He completed 38 passes with an accuracy of 82.61%, showing his quality on the ball as drove his team forward.
On the 29th of November, he made his UEFA Champions League debut, coming off the bench in the 58th minute, in a 3-3 away draw against Galatasaray.
Kobbie’s performances have now earned him a major pay rise, even though he is not signing a new contract.
According to the Daily Star, a clause in his current deal allows for a huge 100 percent pay rise once he becomes a regular in the United team.
The midfielder signed that contract, which sees him earn a wage of £10,000 per week, earlier this year and runs until the summer of 2026.
He is now close to seeing that upped to £20,000 per week, with Ten Hag likely to hand him regular game-time.
United’s own Frenkie de Jong?
Kobbie Mainoo is regarded as a future investment. The Manchester United players and staff have spoken highly of the youngster.
Since Erik ten Hag’s appointment, he has desperately tried to sign Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with whom he worked with at Ajax.
De Jong is renowned for his ability to take the ball from the defence and turn it into attack, something Ten Hag is missing at Old Trafford.
Kobbie Mainoo could be the perfect solution to Man Utd’s midfield conundrum now. He can become influential, orchestrating United’s play from deep and holding everything together.
Mainoo has represented England at under-17, under-18 and under-19 levels. He is also eligible to represent Ghana, by virtue of his parents.
Kobbie Mainoo’s playing style
Kobbie Mainoo posseses balance, poise, impeccable movement, and doesn’t panic under pressure.
He is a versatile midfielder who can play as a No.6, as a No.8 and as a No.10. He has even be played on the wing during his youth career.
But he is most suited to a role as a shield in front of the back four, using his composure to stop dangerous attacks and keeping it simple in possession.
Manchester United believe Mainoo’s future will be in defensive midfield because his technical ability, composure and game awareness are already at a high level and he is strong in one‑on-one duels.
On the ball, Kobbie is technically sound and progresses play calmly, usually dictating the tempo of attacks.
Moreso, he is very physically gifted, often riding tackles and shielding the ball which grants more possession for the team.
Off the ball, Kobbie is a hard worker and presses very well — which will serve the Red Devils well, especially in the Premier League.
What next for Kobbie Mainoo?
One of Manchester United’s greatest struggles last season was in the first phase of the build-up, and they were particularly vulnerable to opponents with an organised high press.
This was a crucial factor in heavy away losses to Brentford and Liverpool, and was ultimately one of the deciding factors in the FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
Mainoo brings attributes that can be extremely helpful in addressing this problem.
For a player who only turned 18 in April, his physical attributes are genuinely outstanding and could be vital in supporting him to make the step up to senior football.
Despite standing at just 5’9” he is very difficult to outmuscle and dispossess. He protects the ball well, allowing him to easily ride challenges, and he is fantastic at turning and changing direction with the ball.
Man Utd have found it difficult in recent years to strike a balance between physicality and technicality in midfield, often leaning too far in one direction or the other, but Mainoo has the technical attributes to match his physical qualities.
The Red Devils have desperately needed midfielders that are comfortable and confident when receiving the ball under pressure in deep positions, and Mainoo thrives at this.
Moreover, he is fantastic at drawing and evading pressure, and his decision-making for releasing the ball at the right time is excellent.
He is also very good at controlling the tempo and seems to have a natural instinct for either speeding up or slowing down the play. He also has incredible close control.
Additionally, he is an excellent dribbler. This, combined with his physical qualities, makes him a very effective ball carrier, for both evading pressure and progressing play.