Erik ten Hag says he expects Kobbie Mainoo to ‘learn a lot’ and for the youngster’s development to ‘accelerate’ under the expert guidance of Casemiro at Manchester United.
Mainoo, 18, has proven a revelation since bursting onto the scene and his meteoric rise has been one of the few success stories of another otherwise disappointing season for the Red Devils.
The teenage midfielder was handed his first-team debut in the Carabao Cup back in January 2023 and has gone on to make 14 appearances for his boyhood club in all competitions this term.
Consistently showcasing maturity beyond his years, Mainoo has emerged at a time of great turbulence at Old Trafford – earning rave reviews for his exemplary attitude and consistent level of performance in the middle of the park.
The standout moment of Mainoo’s young career undoubtedly came earlier this month, when he popped up with a dramatic late wondergoal to seal United all three points in a 4-3 thriller away at Wolves.
By contrast, Casemiro has endured an immensely frustrating campaign, with the veteran midfielder gradually working his way back to full fitness following an ankle injury in recent weeks.
However, Casemiro is in line to make a fourth successive start for United away to Aston Villa and Ten Hag – speaking at his pre-match press conference – said the Brazilian’s wisdom and experience had been badly missed.
‘You can see it. We missed, for over a long period, very important players like Casemiro, like Lisandro Martinez, like Luke Shaw, also others,’ the United head coach told reporters.
‘We discuss that often, but you see the impact of a player when he’s there. Like Casemiro, he gives you calmness and composure on the ball, he gives you options, he sees the vertical pass.
‘He is always a step ahead of his opponent and breaks lines.
‘We talk just about the offensive, how they have to serve, but then Casemiro is a very important player for our game so we’re happy he’s back.
‘For Kobbie Mainoo, he can learn a lot from it and that togetherness, that bond… also Kobbie is very coachable and Casemiro has so much experience. Kobbie will learn a lot from it and that can even accelerate his development.
‘So yeah, I’m happy to have him back and when they can play together I think they can take benefits from each other.’
Asked if Casemiro had developed a bond with Mainoo, the United manager replied: ‘Absolutely.
‘Casemiro takes also that responsibility. He’s talking to him, I see it in the dressing room, I see it on the pitch, on the training ground and also in games.
‘Of course, he’s looking at his own game but he’s also trying to help and support Kobbie Mainoo.’
Though the situation Mainoo entered at United was far from ordeal for such a young player, Ten Hag was always confident he would thrive.
‘It’s more easy to integrate young talent into a successful team, that’s true, so the conditions where we had to bring Kobbie Mainoo in that moment was not really where you know beforehand that it would be a success,’ the Dutchman added.
‘I was confident because I saw him performing. I saw him performing in the autumn, I saw him progressing in the spring and summer.
‘I had the game against Arsenal in my mind so I didn’t have any doubt that when he’s coming in the team, many things he has to do on his own.
‘When there are a lot of routines in the team it’s a lot easier to come in, that’s true, but we are not in that situation. This club was already not in that situation for a long time, for many years Manchester United was not in that position.
‘We are now building a team that can really offer a foundation for players to come in and bring the team to new levels.’
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