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Manchester United academy gem was impressing professionals from FIVE years old, claims ex-coach



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Kobbie Mainoo’s former coach Steve Vare has explained how the Manchester United midfielder was impressing professional coaches ever since he was a child.

Kobbie Mainoo has been nothing short of a revelation at Manchester United this season, seamlessly slipping into Erik ten Hag‘s midfield trio and establishing himself as one of the club’s most valuable players.

Since his debut in November, he has played 27 fixtures and has aligned himself with Alejandro Garnacho and Ramsus Højlund as the club’s most promising talents for the next generation of players.

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Although Mainoo’s talent became obvious to many throughout the first half of 2024, a story surrounding Mainoo when he was just a little kid reportedly made it obvious that he was going to become a superstar long before he hit the main stage.

Speaking on talkSPORT, Jeff Stelling asked Mainoo’s former coach Steve Vare: “How young was Kobbie when you first realised he might be a serious talent?”

“Kobbie joined us at about four or five years of age,” Vare started. “At the time, we were running an indoor facility for school year reception and school year one, so he’d be sort of four or five years of age.

“I think within the space of a couple of weeks, you just could tell that this boy was exceptional. An absolutely exceptional talent, even at four and five. And I know it sounds silly to say that.

“Did we think he would make his Man United debut and play for England? Of course not, but we obviously hope and dream for the lad. But he was a phenomenal player. And I remember one of the parents that used to help me out on a Sunday morning, who actually does professional coaching himself, looked at me and said, wow, what a player this kid could be, even at that young age.

“And I think, as Declan Rice puts it: ‘calm and composed’. I think he’d even say that about Kobbie at four and five years of age. Nothing fazed him, absolutely nothing.”

Vare added: “I think for us down at Cheadle & Gatley, we realised that we had to challenge Kobbie from an early start.

“We used to do a warm-up before we got into the internal matches, and generally, you’d play a nice, soft pass for the boy to kick it into the goal and score a goal. But with Kobbie, it was just far too easy for him.

“So I used to get to the point where I’d absolutely fizz passes into him, and again he would just take it in his stride and slot it into the corner of the net. You then thought, ‘Well, how do you challenge him even more so?’

“So I’d start to chip the ball into him so it’d bounce just before him and again he would time it and just kick the ball into the net. Within the five-a-side matches that we used to have, he just used to glide through games, and he would score 14 or 15 goals in a five-a-side game.

“We had two pitches set up; one was for school year reception, and then the other side was for school year one, so some slightly older boys, more physical boys and girls.

“But very, very early on, we thought, ‘Kobbie needs to be playing on the older boys’ pitch’, and nothing fazed him. His dad used to say, ‘How can we challenge him?’

“We used to put little tests in, so you can only score with your weaker foot, you could only have two touches, you had to pass to a colleague because otherwise he would just find it all too easy.

“We used to have to try and load the opposing teams up with our sort of better players that were down there just to try and sort of challenge him.

“He would just take everything in his stride, and you have to be careful sometimes of pushing boys up into, say, the older pitch because they’re all of a sudden getting knocked about; it’s a bit more physical, but not for Kobbie. He just took it all in his stride and was just like, ‘Bring it on’.”