No matter how successful – or lately, unsuccessful – Manchester United has been on the pitch, the club has always prided itself on an uncanny ability to generate the game’s brightest young stars. The latest breakthrough talent, it seems, is 18-year-old midfielder Kobbie Mainoo.
The teenager’s emergence from the youth academy has been one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise difficult season for the team, and the highlight of his fledgling career came during United’s thrilling 4-3 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday.
After the host had seemingly snatched a draw in the 95th minute of the match, Mainoo showed his considerable potential by scoring a winner in the dying moments.
The English youngster received the ball under pressure outside of the opposition’s box before slaloming his way towards the goal, nut-megging a Wolves defender on the way. Then, when other players might have panicked, Mainoo kept his composure and guided a perfect shot into the far corner of the net.
While his teammates celebrated wildly, Mainoo seemed to take it all in his stride as he slid towards the crowd on his knees after scoring his first Premier League goal.
It was a sensational moment and a goal which might change the teenager’s life forever.
“I’ve still not come down from it, I still feel like I’m dreaming to be honest,” Mainoo told TNT Sports after the match.
“To start playing in the Premier League for my boyhood club has been amazing.
“Now [I am] just trying to get a good run of games in, win more games and get real momentum going.”
Even before his magical goal, Mainoo had been impressing the soccer world this season.
Despite being only 18, his performances have shown remarkable maturity and he seems comfortable dictating games with his precise passing and ability to dispossess the opposition with ease.
There have been moments this season, though, where his inexperience has shown, but the future looks bright for the young midfielder who seems to have his feet firmly on the ground.
“He is making incredible progress. He has great abilities, he is the modern midfield player,” Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag told reporters after the game.
“He can defend and attack but also he has the physicality to do both ways. He is also composed.”
Thursday’s dramatic win was some welcome good news during an unsettled period at the club.
While the team has struggled for consistency on the pitch, United has been in a state of flux off it, with British petrochemical billionaire Jim Ratcliffe purchasing a 25% stake in United.
Ratcliffe will look to usher in a more settled chapter from next season, but the negative headlines still seem to be following the team.
In the buildup to Thursday’s game, Marcus Rashford, another academy graduate, caused a stir for missing training after a night out.
Amid questions about his commitment to the team, the forward was left out of the team’s FA Cup clash against Newport County at the weekend.
The 26-year-old, though, started Thursday’s league game and silenced his critics with a brilliant finish in the opening five minutes of the match.
Rasmus Højlund then bundled in the second before Pablo Sarabia cut the deficit in half with a penalty in the 71st minute.
In a frantic finale, Scott McTominay reestablished United’s two-goal lead before Max Kilman pulled another goal back for Wolves.
The host then scored a dramatic equaliser in the 95th minute when Pedro Neto finished off a counter attack, but Mainoo was on hand to rescue the win for the visitor.
Manchester United now sits seventh in the Premier League as it bids to chase down a top-four finish, which would ensure qualifiation for next season’s Champions League.
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