Erik ten Hag will be preparing his Manchester United side for the upcoming Champions League clash against Galatasaray on Wednesday.
The team are coming into the game with confidence following their 3-0 win against Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
One player who was absolutely key to that performance was 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo, who was making his full league debut in the hostile Goodison Park.
“[He was] very mature. Getting the ball and making the right decisions,” said the United boss. “Leading our build-up, leading our possession. That is what we expect from our no.6 there.
“When defending, he was also playing as a man, as a senior. A very good start and now he has to do it on a consistent basis.”
He couldn’t have made a better impression on his debut despite being replaced midway through the second half.
That could’ve been Ten Hag easing the youngster in following his injury, or it could’ve been a decision with the upcoming Champions League game in mind.
United are playing a must-win game against Galatasaray, however, the stadium is expected to be even more hostile than Sunday’s clash.
Then Premier League action returns on the weekend away at Newcastle United, who are still a fierce opposition at St James’ Park despite their recent injury troubles.
It seems unlikely that Mainoo would be in the line-up for both of those games, and if Ten Hag’s plan is to start him in just one, he has likely been assessing which game would suit the youngster and United the most.
In terms of the on-field game, playing against Galatasaray would likely be an easier test than Eddie Howe’s men, who are known for their ferocious pressing style.
On the other hand, some would argue that Mainoo’s skillset in the midfield would be the best to challenge that Newcastle press with his ability to turn and dribble with the ball at his feet, evading players.
Whilst when you also consider external factors, starting a crucial Champions League away clash in your third-ever start for the club could be a difficult environment for Mainoo, although Newcastle’s ground isn’t a walk in the park.
There’s perhaps no right answer for how Ten Hag approaches his use of the midfielder in the coming week. In an ideal world, the team wouldn’t be reliant on him for such useful midfield attributes.
Yet, it’s always fun to see academy players excel.
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