Soccer

Stockport star shining for Man Utd – England’s latest call-up Kobbie Mainoo

The 18-year-old was born in Stockport and eligible to play for Ghana as well as England.

Teenager Kobbie Mainoo has excelled in Manchester United’s indifferent season and has now been called up by England
Teenager Kobbie Mainoo has excelled in Manchester United’s indifferent season and has now been called up by England (Martin Rickett/PA)

For Kobbie Mainoo, it was a sign of things to come.

High summer at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and a record crowd for football of 82,262. Manchester United against Arsenal in a July friendly and all the talk surrounded the Gunners’ new £100million midfielder Declan Rice.

But by the end of United’s 2-0 win, the chatter was about Mainoo after the 18-year-old had impressed with his passing ability, maturity and composure on the ball.

Kobbie Mainoo (right) celebrates his first Premier League goal for Manchester United in a 4-3 win at Wolves in February
Kobbie Mainoo (right) celebrates his first Premier League goal for Manchester United in a 4-3 win at Wolves in February (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“It’s fantastic,” United manager Erik ten Hag said of a player called up to the England squad eight months later for the upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

“Manchester United is famous for always bringing young players up and it can be done. But we have to see.

“This year, he showed it in spring, then he got injured. We are really happy.”

It was not long, however, before Ten Hag was unhappy again as Mainoo suffered a nasty ankle injury against Real Madrid in the next game of United’s pre-season tour.

Mainoo did not return to first-team action until the end of November, curtailing progress that had seemed inevitable from the moment he joined United’s Under-18 squad in 2021.

Eligible to play for Ghana, where both his parents come from, Mainoo was capped by England from U17 to U19 level and is a son of Stockport like Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

But it was the red half of Manchester, not the blue, that Mainoo headed for at the age of nine after starting his youth career at Cheadle & Gatley junior football club.

Mainoo played a key role as United won 2022 FA Youth Cup, their first success in the competition for more than a decade.

He was named the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year at Old Trafford, claiming an award won previously by Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville.

Mainoo celebrated by signing his first professional contract and made his senior debut in a Carabao Cup victory over Charlton in January 2023.

A Premier League debut came off the bench against Leicester the following month and he has really kicked on after that pre-season injury.

The teenager has been a model of consistency in United’s inconsistent season, whether in a defensive midfield role or slightly further forward, and offering hope that better days lie ahead at Old Trafford.

Mainoo scored his first goal in the FA Cup at Newport, a Premier League winner in the dying seconds of a 4-3 classic at Wolves and has now made over 20 first-team appearances.

TV pundit and former England striker Ian Wright had demanded Kobbie Mainoo’s England promotion after his FA Cup performance against Liverpool
TV pundit and former England striker Ian Wright had demanded Kobbie Mainoo’s England promotion after his FA Cup performance against Liverpool (Zac Goodwin/PA)

By the time his close control, vision and ability to resist a fierce Liverpool press had stood out in Sunday’s 4-3 FA Cup quarter-final win at Old Trafford, the clamour for him to be included in an England squad was irresistible.

“Come on, man. Come on. Man was immense, gosh,” said former England striker and ITV pundit Ian Wright.

Although some will see Mainoo as too young for a Euro 2024 brief this summer – he does not turn 19 until next month – England have experience of turning to youth at major tournaments.

Theo Walcott went to the 2006 World Cup at the age of 17 and Jude Bellingham shone at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar aged 19.

The hope for Mainoo now is that he will be joining Bellingham in Germany this summer.