Erik ten Hag has hinted at new Kobbie Mainoo role at Manchester United

Erik ten Hag has hinted at new Kobbie Mainoo role at Manchester United

Around this time last year, Kobbie Mainoo would have been returning from his vacation and getting ready for another year of progress in the Manchester United academy.

However, this summer is quite different for him, as he has traveled to the United States with the first team, and it’s not just a goodwill gesture. Erik ten Hag has consistently emphasized that every player must earn their playing time and spot in the squad.

Despite having only made three senior appearances, Mainoo has shown enough potential to convince his manager that he can contribute to the first team in the upcoming season.

Last January, the 18-year-old made his debut in the League Cup match against Charlton and later signed a new long-term contract.

During this summer’s friendly games, Mainoo has impressed everyone, especially in the 2-0 victory over Leeds in Oslo. His agility, strength, and intelligence on the field have sparked excitement among United fans.

Last year, there was a similar level of excitement surrounding Alejandro Garnacho. The Argentinian player didn’t participate in United’s 2022/23 pre-season tour due to disciplinary reasons, but he managed to impress during a behind-closed-doors friendly with Wrexham and a match against Rayo Vallecano.

Garnacho finally got his full debut opportunity in October and scored two senior goals before Christmas. By the end of the season, he had contributed to 10 goals and secured a fresh five-year contract, along with a probable new shirt number.

Looking ahead, Ten Hag has challenged Garnacho to become a regular starter, as he had only started 11 out of 34 games last season. This might be a challenging task given Marcus Rashford’s presence on the left flank, and Kobbie Mainoo would face a similar challenge.

Mainoo has the versatility to play both in attacking and central midfield positions, which means he would need to compete with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, Mason Mount, Fred, and Scott McTominay for playing time, potentially even against a new signing. It’s undoubtedly a tough competition for both Garnacho and Mainoo to secure their spots in the starting lineup.

Mainoo can find motivation from Garnacho’s example, who faced a challenging situation last season with Rashford and Jadon Sancho ahead of him in the pecking order. Despite this, Garnacho managed to participate in more than 30 matches.

It’s likely that Ten Hag will adopt a similar strategy with Mainoo, making him a regular member of the squad but mostly utilizing him as a substitute with occasional starts. Manchester United needs to carefully consider what would be the best course of action for the young player in the upcoming season.

Although a loan option was available, Ten Hag believes that Mainoo’s development would be better served by remaining with the senior squad and being a part of the team in the long run. The potential departure of Fred, with interest from Fulham, and the possibility of McTominay leaving, further open opportunities for Mainoo.

During the tour, Mainoo’s primary objective is to convince his manager that he can adequately fill the gaps left by potential departures or even challenge the Dutchman’s first-choice midfielders for playing time. With the confidence of his manager behind him, Mainoo can step onto the field with a strong sense of self-assurance, which will undoubtedly play a significant role in his performance.

Throughout the season, Mainoo will need to demonstrate his gratitude for the manager’s trust by performing well whenever he’s given the opportunity. Garnacho was a prime example of how to achieve this, and Ten Hag also provided him with the necessary playing time to showcase his abilities.

Likewise, Ten Hag is expected to follow a similar approach with Mainoo. If the young player shows a similar progression as Garnacho, the manager will have successfully nurtured two academy graduates, guiding them through the ranks, and potentially incorporating them as vital components in his mission to rebuild the team.

Erik ten Hag has hinted at new Kobbie Mainoo role at Manchester United

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