Kobbie Mainoo looked like he had been a Manchester United first-teamer for a long time when he started their first pre-season friendly of the season against Leeds United.

His passing, his positioning, and the way he uses his body to shield the ball from the haranguing of opposition players was a joy to watch. The 18-year-old, who was given his first team debut against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup earlier this year, has shone in the youth teams for United.

His weight of passing, ball retention, and vision on the ball excited United fans, with Kobbie Mainoo, at times, seeming like a Barcelona midfielder with the way he moves the ball and protects the ball with such ease.

The midfielder has consistently featured in the years above his age, and that is usually a sign of a player with vast potential and Mainoo certainly has that, in abundance.

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Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
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Kobbie Mainoo shows quality

Mainoo certainly has the physical prowess, unlike other midfielders who have come through the academy previously, who maybe had the technical quality but not the physical quality to stand them in good stead in the Premier League.

There was a moment in the 11th minute of the pre-season friendly against Leeds, that perhaps encapsulated why there is such a buzz about the midfielder.

He received the ball from deep, and with two Leeds players converging on him, he skipped past them both and played it down the right for Aaron-Wan Bissaka. It was a small moment, a six-second moment to be precise, but nevertheless, it highlighted exactly why there has been trust instilled into him by Ten Hag.

United have missed that poise when they’re pressed, Mainoo has the composure to deal with it in abundance. With the experience around him, unlike in previous years, academy players won’t just be hoisted into the limelight without anybody to help them. The path is clear for Mainoo to make an impact.

During the celebrations of the Carabao Cup victory in March, Erik Ten Hag made a point to storm over to one player in particular, Mainoo.

He put his arm around the then 17-year-old and had a quiet word in the ear of the midfielder. Ten Hag mentioned that United needed to promote a youth player every year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Mainoo was the one called upon, but he isn’t the only candidate.

Manchester United v Leeds United - Pre-Season Friendly
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Alvaro Fernandez and Hannibal Mejbri also impress

Two United youngsters also impressed against Leeds, Hannibal Mejbri and Alvaro Fernandez. Both players were out on loan last season, but have returned and are seemingly in the manager’s thoughts.

Fernandez, in particular, was superb in the 45 minutes he played in, his passing and his energy, were a particular highlight.

Mejbri was also impressive in the same regard and he looked a lot more composed than he did when he came on 4-0 down against Liverpool back in 2022. The future seems bright for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United.

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