Kobbie Mainoo has returned to full Manchester United training this week after a lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury.
His match was cut short when Rodrygo bundled into the teenager after a collision with Brazilian teammate Casemiro. Mainoo left the stadium on crutches and has been recovering from an ankle injury ever since.
Now, with Mainoo emerging in team photos ahead of United’s Champions League clash against Galatasaray, it appears that the talented midfielder could have a problem on his hands.
The burden of expectation on the midfielder amongst many sections of the online fanbase is exceptionally high. Ten Hag’s midfield has been poor so far this term, with there being a lack of a comfortable first-phase player in the ranks.
Whilst Mainoo’s profile suits this description, and there also is no doubt about his ability and talent, it is a dangerous game to be pinning so much hope on a young player who has yet to complete a full 90-minute competitive game for the club.
Not only because he might encounter issues when thrown into the most competitive league in the world, the Premier League, but also because there is a worrying trend that many United fans look to build a player up in order to break them down once adversity comes.
Alejandro Garnacho seems to be the major example of this at the moment. The exciting Argentine is one of the most dangerous young wingers in the sport and has done excellently from the bench over the last year.
United fans get excited. Call him the best in the world. ‘He must start’. Once there are issues, because playing a full 90 minutes is much different than making impacts from the bench, he’s receiving pelters from areas of his own fanbase.
Then the cycle happens again. Garnacho will almost certainly grow and develop so that he’s as dangerous a player starting games as he is coming on at 60 minutes, but that patience is not often there within the fanbase.
Mainoo plays in a harder position than his FA Youth Cup-winning teammate. The base of midfield is arguably the toughest position to play at the top level of the sport. Expecting his adaption to be seamless could be a recipe for disaster when inevitable bumps come on the road.
However, this is not a call for Mainoo to not be involved. He was not sent on loan by Erik ten Hag for that exact reason – he is rated highly and is going to contribute. Instead, there should be a mix of patience and ease of expectation on the young man’s shoulders who will be entering a team that isn’t flying high currently.
Mainoo could easily slot into the team and play like he did in pre-season. He has the talent, undoubtedly, but Ten Hag and those at United will need to tread carefully because online abuse is no bigger for a footballer than when you’re at Manchester United. And opinions change worryingly quickly.
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