Kobbie Mainoo sets Manchester United target after another late blow

United drew against Liverpool despite Mainoo’s stunning strike to give them the lead at Old Trafford

Simon Peach
Monday 08 April 2024 13:26 BST
Kobbie Mainoo has quickly established himself as an Old Trafford star (Martin Rickett/PA)
Kobbie Mainoo has quickly established himself as an Old Trafford star (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Wire)

Kobbie Mainoo says Manchester United need to start seeing out games and iron out little mistakes after Erik ten Hag’s side went close to a stunning win against rivals Liverpool.

Few expected anything other than a victory for Jurgen Klopp’s title challengers on Sunday, especially after Luis Diaz gave the visitors a deserved half-time lead at Old Trafford.

United had not so much as registered a shot until the 50th minute but when it arrived it did so in style and Bruno Fernandes’ audacious 45-yard goal sparked a marked improvement.

Mainoo went onto put the hosts ahead with an exquisite first senior goal at Old Trafford, only for Mohamed Salah’s penalty to seal Liverpool a late 2-2 draw.

“To score my first goal at Old Trafford, it’s unbelievable,” the 18-year-old United academy graduate said.

“But, you know, ultimately we didn’t come away with the three points, so it doesn’t leave the best taste in my mouth.”

It is little wonder Mainoo was frustrated after the Old Trafford outfit blew a late lead for the third time in nine days.

United were on course for a smash-and-grab win at Brentford last weekend, only for Mason Mount’s stoppage-time strike to be followed by an even later Kristoffer Ajer equaliser as it ended 1-1.

Worse was to come when the Red Devils returned to west London on Thursday, recovering from two goals down to head into second half stoppage time leading before losing 4-3 against Chelsea.

Salah’s 84th minute equaliser was nowhere near as late but represented another missed opportunity for a side whose faint Champions League hopes continue to fade by the game.

“Definitely (there are positives),” Mainoo said of Sunday’s draw with Liverpool. “I feel second half we pulled together and we figured things out and we were much, much better.

“But seeing out games is what’s going to get us points and that’s what’s going to get us higher in the table, that’s what’s going to win us games, so these are things that matter.”

Asked how important it is that the kind of standards driven into him in United’s academy are retained at the highest level, Mainoo told MUTV: “Yeah, 100 per cent.

“That’s what wins you titles and that’s what wins you games, having these standards, having players in the changing room that make sure the rest of the team keep up to them standards, which we do.

“And so, I feel like it’s just the little things that we need to iron out. That’s what’s going to help us win these games.”

Mainoo’s magnificent strike was his third of a stunning breakthrough campaign.

Having returned from ankle ligament damage sustained in pre-season, the 18-year-old has not looked back since making his first Premier League start on November 26.

Mainoo made his full England debut just four months on, with his man-of-the-match display against Belgium putting him in with a great chance of going to this summer’s Euros.

The United midfielder’s inexorable rise shows no signs of abating and he is trying to take it in his stride.

“Enjoyable, tough but it’s playing for my boyhood club on the biggest stage,” Mainoo said of the season to date. “To be able to adapt and to have these fans and everything around it, I mean, I can’t complain.”

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