Kobbie Mainoo returns to first-team training – Man United

Kobbie Mainoo has returned to first-team training for the first time following the ankle injury he sustained during Manchester United’s pre-season tour.

Mainoo was spotted in a video released of the United squad warming up, alongside the recently returned Antony.

The talented youngster has been forced off the field in the opening few minutes of the friendly against Real Madrid; a match United would ultimately lose 2-0.

Further scans after the game revealed the significant nature of the injury to his ankle, with the club announcing Mainoo would miss the “first part of the 2023/24 season.”

It constituted a major blow for the midfielder as he had firmly established himself in Erik ten Hag’s plans during an impressive pre-season. His performance against Arsenal, in particular, highlighted the fact he did not look out of place at the top level of senior football.

The mere fact Ten Hag entrusted Mainoo with the starting berth in central midfield against a team such as Real Madrid highlights the Dutchman’s faith in him.

Which is why the injury sustained three minutes into that match was so cruel. Even more so when the state of United’s midfield in the first six weeks of the season is considered.

Ten Hag’s side has lacked control and guile on the ball in their opening nine fixtures. Casemiro, Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes have formed an ineffective midfield triumvirate on the ball and United’s general play has suffered. The attack has looked slow and ponderous for large parts of this season as a result.

Equally, there have been issues off the ball as well. Teams have found it too easy to carve through United’s midfield, subjecting the defence to an unrelenting level of pressure at times. Eleven goals conceded in seven games while scoring only nine tells its own story.

Despite his tender years, Mainoo’s skillset offers the exact selection of attributes that this midfield has been sorely lacking.

His ability on the ball and comfort in progression and possession, combined with strong physical attributes, make him an ideal midfielder to operate deeper on the pitch. His intelligence and maturity belie his age and seem to suggest Mainoo is ready for the Premier League far earlier than the usual academy graduate would be. Further analysis on the role he can play can be found here.

While it may be an unreasonable level of pressure and expectation to place upon the shoulders of an 18-year old, the fact his return to training has produced such a positive reaction online shows just how much the United fan base rate their newest starlet.

It’s a level of faith which appears to be matched by the manager as well.

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