Move over Marcus Rashford: Kobbie Mainoo is Manchester United’s new star

Wolves 3-4 Manchester United: Mainoo snatched a dramatic late winner after a week where Rashford had been centre of attention for the wrong reasons

Pete Hall
at Molineux
Friday 02 February 2024 07:47 GMT
Ten Hag heaps praise on teenage match-winner Kobbie Mainoo: 'Wonderful to see'

Just one normal day in the life of Manchester United is all we ask.

With the eyes of the world watching Marcus Rashford’s every move, it was another, better-behaved academy product from down the road who secured his anarchic side a truly remarkable victory that United did their utmost to undo.

Even though the tequila-swilling rogue arrowed a superb opener five minutes into a match he looked a long way from starting when called into a Carrington disciplinary meeting three days ago, star-in-the-making Kobbie Mainoo’s incredible winner, in the 97th minute, must not be forgotten amid all the Rashford furore.

Kobbie Mainoo showed Marcus Rashford how it was done with a late winner (Getty Images)

Erik ten Hag has been running out of rebuttals to defeat after disappointing defeats this season but he has been keen to point out, as all else has been on fire around him, that he must be judged when he has a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Against Wolves, for the first time since the opening weeks of the season, Ten Hag was able to field United’s best XI. For long periods, this was United’s best display of the campaign, but they retained that inane ability to shoot themselves in the foot at the drop of the hat. If this is what Ten Hag was waiting for, we are all here for more of the same. Match-winning strikes like Mainoo’s though, don’t grow on trees.

Rashford’s inclusion divided supporters pre-match. Why had he been thrown straight back into the team, many asked, when Jadon Sancho was cast aside for less of a misdemeanour? The arrowing strike into the net to set United on their way at Molineux quickly silenced the doubters suggesting he was not in the right frame of mind to produce the goods on the pitch.

Marcus Rashford opened the scoring after his dramatic week (Reuters)

The move, however, was even more eye-catching than the strike itself. From back to front, starting with Andre Onana, United picked pass after pass, Rasmus Hojlund produced a super lay-off and Rashford did the rest.

There was no wild celebration after a third goal in as many games but Rashford’s teammates were certainly quick to show there is no animosity towards the insubordinate forward, the opposite in fact. A slap on the back of the head from Casemiro finally raised a Rashford smile. United’s travelling supporters serenaded their one-time fan favourite with a chorus of “Rashford’s on the piss”.

In-form Wolves – only Liverpool had taken more points in the Premier League than the West Midlanders since early December coming into their clash with United – were all at sea, and no answer to an incongruous United team at long last showing some cohesion and organisation.

That is what Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro bring. The crucial pair have been far from perfect in a United shirt, but when they are both in it, United click into gear.

Casemiro helped stabilise United’s midfield (Reuters)

Rashford was involved in the second United goal 22 minutes in, again another fine team goal, with Luke Shaw making the assist – another senior figure his side has missed a great deal.

Twice more United had the ball in the net before the first half was out, with the offside flag coming to Wolves’ rescue.

There was no drop-off in the second half, either. The chances kept coming and going, with Hojlund especially guilty of missing two gilt-edged openings to put the game to bed.

The visitors needed that third, as they knew full well how quickly this modern-day United incumbent can crumble and sure enough, after the hosts were awarded a soft penalty, Pablo Sarabia reduced the deficit to one with 19 minutes left.

Kobbie Mainoo was the Manchester United hero at the death (PA)

A quick-fire reply from substitute Scott McTominay, with his very first touch, extended United’s lead again, only for Max Kilman to again put the jitters up the nervy visitors late on with a close-range finish Onana will not want to see again.

In the most dramatic fashion, Pedro Neto wrong-footed a static Onana, with United backpedalling frantically having committed too many men forward, in the 95th minute – another Ten Hag disaster. How had United not won this, came the cry from all around.

Step forward the Stockport Socrates. The sashay past two defenders was exquisite, the finish out of this world. A star is born. Just don’t mess this up, Kobbie.

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