Gary Neville thinks Manchester United teenager Kobbie Mainoo “looked like a Manchester City player” during his full league debut against Everton.
Injuries over the past year have hampered the 18-year-old’s progress but he has always been highly thought of by Erik ten Hag, who handed the teenager his full Premier League debut on Sunday afternoon.
The defensive midfielder was thrown in at the deep end as Man Utd were facing a pumped-up Everton side who were at home for the first time since being deducted 10 points for breaching one of the Premier League’s financial rules.
Mainoo handled himself superbly and he was arguably United’s best player as they beat Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park. Alejandro Garnacho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial netted as the Red Devils moved up to sixth in the Premier League.
Speaking post-match, Neville suggested that Mainoo “looked class” against Everton.
“It was impressive and there’s no point getting carried away because the reality is he’s got 17 or 18 years in front of him and a lot of work to do,” Neville said on Sky Sports.
“But sometimes when you see a player come in for the first time and their temperament… He’s obviously got technical ability and skill, you don’t play for Manchester United in the first place if you haven’t got that you don’t get picked by Erik ten Hag if you haven’t got that – but what you don’t know is how they’ll handle it.
“He’s gone in here at Goodison Park, in what could have been the most ferocious atmospheres for many a year in a hostile environment, and he looked class. We know he’s class and got class, but he looked class in that environment.
“I always judge players when it’s the most difficult part of the game. When Man United had their most difficult period in that first half I thought he was the only player who showed up, the only player who still looked like himself.”
Neville also argued that Pep Guardiola would “want him” as he “looked like a Man City player”.
“The biggest compliment I can pay him, and it hurts to say it, is that he looked like a Man City player. I thought that was someone that Pep Guardiola would look at and be thinking ‘I’d want him in my midfield, that’s what my midfield players do’,” Neville added.
“Thankfully Man United have got him because he looks so composed, so graceful, always looking over his shoulder, knowing where everyone is, letting it run across his body.
“At 18 to be doing that out there – and he’ll have tougher games, got a challenge in front of him, there’ll be injuries, ups and downs, he’s playing at a club with huge demands. But that was very, very good.”