It takes a special performance to be on the pitch when your teammate scores one of the best Premier League goals of all time and yet still have the conversation about you. But that's precisely what Kobbie Mainoo did in Manchester United's 3-0 thumping of Everton.
There were glimpses of his quality during United's pre-season tour, but injury stunted his exciting progress from fluidly running into the season. Now, he's back and showing precisely why Manchester City attempted to bring him in before he joined United at the tender age of nine.
Against Everton, Mainoo ran the show, being the main vehicle in which Erik ten Hag's side filtered their transition into attack. His WhoScored rating of 7.43 bettered every player in his position that day.
What United have been notably lacking is a defensive midfielder, operating as a No.6, who can pick up the ball from deep and carry it into the final third.
After the Frenkie de Jong saga of 2021, they were forced to move for Casemiro as an alternative. But, to simplify his role, the veteran is very one-sided: more of a physical force, a combative figure who’s able to win aerial duels and get stuck into tackles. On his day, the Brazil international can act as a defensive rock, but he's not versatile enough to tear through opponents with passes and carries.
Mainoo is - and he could successfully forge a career as a deep-lying playmaker in this role, given his ability to turn into space under pressure. The ‘Paul Pogba role’ still remains vacant for United. The Red Devils need someone to contribute in the build up while also offering a physical element in the centre of the pitch.
Mainoo is a strong candidate to fill this void.
Kobbie Mainoo's Transfer Value - how much is he worth?
According to FootballTransfers' Estimated Transfer Value algorithm, Mainoo is worth €1.4m. This is reflective of his young age and inexperience at the elite level. Expect this figure to soar within weeks.
Even still, Ten Hag spoke about the midfielder's maturity, giving an indication that he will continue to start the youngster in forthcoming games, as he did at Goodison Park.
He told BBC Sport: "It was very painful for us when he got that bad injury in pre-season. Now he is back, first start, pleased with his performance, now you have to do it repeatedly. That is now the challenge we have with him.
"But he's a good boy, he's already very mature, that's what he showed today – in and out of possession – he did his job very well."
Kobbie Mainoo's strengths and weaknesses - what does the data say?
Obviously, the data is limited to just two first-team outings, but even with a small sample pool, we can identify what sort of player Mainoo will be in the future. He has made 1.7 tackles per 90 minutes across his 104 minutes of play - and an equal amount of interceptions in the same period.
He is handy in his own box, too, making 3.5 clearances per 90, exemplified by his one off the goalline against Everton last weekend.
Starting against the Toffees in a double pivot with Scott McTominay allowed the Scotland star to roam forward, allowing Mainoo’s focus on forging turnovers and shielding the backline. With such contrasting players, there has been a sense of fluidity in midfield - a proficiency highlighted by McTominay’s new-found ability to find the net, as was showcased against Galatasaray on Wednesday.
The combination of Casemiro and Eriksen in United’s midfield has been unable to emulate this partnership.That’s not to say Mainoo is restricted and merely a defensive wall when playing in such a role.
On the ball, Mainoo excels. He averages 2.6 successful dribbles per 90, exhibiting his ability to find space when pressed. And even finding his man, the teenager boasts a pass accuracy of 91.3% over his two matches.
The data may be small but it is wholly positive about just how good this 18-year-old can become in the future.
This article was provided by FootballTransfers