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Kobbie Mainoo proved Erik ten Hag right in these two moments vs Everton



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Credit: Sky Sports

Kobbie Mainoo was excellent on his full Premier League debut for Manchester United against Everton on the weekend.

The teenager was one of United’s best players during the 3-0 win and earned deserved praise from the likes of Gary Neville and Roy Keane after the game.

Ten Hag was extremely happy with the impact that the teenager made in possession as the deepest midfielder at Goodison Park.

“Very mature. Getting the ball and making the right decisions. Leading our build-up, leading our possession. That is what we expect from our no.6 there,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Mainoo did. He was receiving the ball in pockets of space away from opposition players and keeping the play ticking.

However, what made it slightly different to what United’s other options can offer is the way that he can manipulate the ball, and situation, in order to turn defence into attack.

This is something that Mainoo has honed throughout his time in the academy and two instances in particular against Everton were perfect examples of what Ten Hag wants the youngster to provide.

Firstly came an opportunity made for Alejandro Garnacho in the early stages of the game after the Argentine’s incredible opener.

Mainoo’s slight change in momentum and movement to pick up the space between the Everton striker provided Andre Onana with a central pass, rather than towards the flanks to Harry Maguire or Victor Lindelof, who split wide with the goalkeeper in possession.

Importantly, Mainoo had scanned his surroundings and knew he was able to receive the ball on the half-turn, which allowed him to do the more impactful action shortly afterwards.

It is also crucial to notice the speed that Mainoo is working at in the various stages of this play, which is difficult to gauge when only seeing images. But the midfielder almost slows down when he turns in order to attract pressure from the Everton forwards.

This is done so the youngster can evade the press with a short burst into the space in front of him as you can see in the images below.

Yet, it’s all well and good being able to make the turn. But Mainoo is usually able to find forward passes to help progress the play in situations like this. In this instance, he sees the run of Garnacho on the last line and times his pass perfectly. Unfortunately, it was slightly too strong for the winger to get on the end of.

However, that pass was certainly on to play. Everton’s defensive line were high and Garnacho’s pace was a threat in that situation. Mainoo was able to manipulate the frontline, and use his dribbling ability to enter a dangerous zone of the pitch.

The second example used is slightly later in the first-half but involves all of the same attributes from Mainoo.

Again, the midfielder drops back into the space where he can receive the ball from Lindelof.

And again we see how Mainoo’s timing and confidence in his ability to either turn out of pressure or be able to find a pass backwards, by the fact that he essentially allows the Everton front two to press him closely. They were originally much wider, anticipating the ball going to the flanks.

Mainoo then knows that he can turn away from these two players. He scanned around before receiving and took his time on the ball. He knew he had the space to turn and then had the composure to find a progressive pass into Marcus Rashford’s feet.

These are the typical attributes that Ten Hag is looking for in his midfield and a major reason why he was disappointed when Mainoo suffered his injury in pre-season.

Of course, Mainoo can offer tons of different things to the team both defensively and offensively. But these moments are what have been lacking at Old Trafford and the academy star can certainly offer some solutions.