Kobbie Mainoo has been hailed as one to watch at Manchester United by Neil Ryan, Travis Binnion, and Neil Wood.
Ryan – now a coach with the England under 21s – worked with Mainoo during his time coaching the Red Devils’ under 16 side and immediately saw his talents.
“He’d strike the ball well – powerfully and cleanly,” Ryan told The Athletic. “He could handle himself physically, too.”
Now working with the 17-year-old in England’s youth national setup, Ryan continues to be impressed.
“He had some really good performances in the youth system and started to shine, and I’ve continued to work with him after selecting him to be with the England team. In the one camp he’s been at so far, he did really well.
“He was outstanding against the Netherlands and also played against Belgium— another high-level game for him. He performed well in that one, too.”
Mainoo appears to relish the challenge each time he moves up a rung on the ladder, and, according to journalist Andy Mitten, the youngster possesses the right mentality to succeed at Old Trafford.
It is a view backed up by United’s current under 21 manager Travis Binnion.
“As a person, he’s quite a quiet kid,” he says. “He thinks about the game. He’s hard-working. Really popular with his team-mates.
“He goes about his business in an unassuming manner, then he lets his ability do the talking. He’s never going to be a shouter and a bawler. He’s got a good football brain.”
Personable and focused, Mainoo is showing early signs of possessing both the attitude and ability he will need to succeed at the club.
He has already broken into Erik ten Hag’s matchday squad, having made the bench against Newcastle United in October.
While he didn’t make it onto the pitch that time, continued success at youth level will be sure to keep him in Ten Hag’s mind.
Mainoo was in the team that won the FA Youth Cup with a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest in the final and has done well stepping up to the under 21 squad.
Neil Wood – his manager at the time of the Youth Cup success – appreciates the youngsters obvious talent but suggests there is room for improvement.
“Kobbie had some good performances in the Youth Cup last season,” he said.
“In the final, I thought both teams cancelled each other out and that he could have got on the ball better, that his movement could have been better. I spoke to his dad about that after the game.
“That was the next part of his development – playing against teams who have players who are as physical as him.
Playing in the under-21s was going to be the next challenge. Can he dominate those games for 90 minutes? There are a lot of video clips that go around of individual skill these days, but it’s important to watch the whole game and see the balance of that game.
“There’s no doubt that he’s technically very good and comfortable with the ball at his feet and also receiving the ball under pressure. He can carry the ball very well and dribbles well.”
“I’d like to see more of his passing range — to see if he’s got those passes that really hurt opponents, cut defences open or really create attacks,” he added.
“I’d like to see more of that side of him, but I think the 21s is enough of a challenge for him at the moment. He has the power and physique.”
Ryan and Binnion also emphasise his passing as an area to work on, in particular in terms of progressing the ball.
A fine athlete and an intelligent ball carrier, Mainoo has impressed at every level so far, but if there is yet more to add to his game (and the will to add it) he stands a good chance of becoming a household name.
For Binnion, however, the next step for the teenager would be a loan move down the pyramid.
“The next level – to play regularly in League One, the Championship (out on loan) and Premier League – will be a further challenge for him.”
It is something the player is preparing for ahead of time.
“He’s doing a lot of work behind the scenes physically to make sure he copes and excels with that.”