Man Utd should apply Hojlund logic to Mainoo as transfer plans set teen up for failure

Will Ford
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo applauds the fans.
Kobbie Mainoo applauds the fans.

Manchester United are applying some sound logic in a bid to ease the burden on Rasmus Hojlund, but they’re setting up Kobbie Mainoo to fail by failing to use that very same wisdom.

“I think an issue for Hojlund is he hasn’t got anyone at Man Utd to learn from and improve his game.” 

Few would disagree with Andy Cole, who spoke of the importance of having Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona to lean on when he arrived at Old Trafford, and would presumably give his blessing to his former club signing either Antoine Griezmann or Thomas Muller, both of whom have been linked in recent weeks as experienced additions to ease the load on Hojlund.

A proven striker to play a bit-part role to allow the undoubtedly talented but overburdened future star time and breathing space to develop just makes sense. But in the Manchester United transfer sphere, logic is rare and seemingly befuddling, to the extent that when panic briefly makes way for sound judgement, they fail to apply the very same wisdom in very similar circumstances.

Everyone is very excited by the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo. His captain said he deserved the Man of the Match award for his display against Everton, and Roy Keane – a man who knows a thing or two about Red Devil DNA – confirmed the 18-year-old is “a Man United type of player” after his “outstanding” full Premier League debut.

Keane failed to heed his own advice having insisted “we don’t want to get too carried away” and Rio Ferdinand has since compared the teenager to Cesc Fabregas – he of 217 career assists, two Premier League titles, two European Championships and a World Cup. Rather than entirely douse the hype bonfires with p*ss, we somewhat more reservedly suggested Erik ten Hag may finally have got his own Frenkie de Jong.

As is the case with Hojlund, it’s very likely United have got a real player on their hands. But just like Hojlund, United should avoid throwing Mainoo in at the deep end without armbands. Casemiro can at the very least be a useful buoyancy aid.

There’s little middle ground when it comes to football opinions and at Manchester United the fence is particularly precarious to sit on. The coverage of Casemiro would suggest he was the best defensive midfielder in world football in his debut campaign before being deemed unfit to lace Scott McTominay’s boots this season, when in reality he was very good, then not particularly good.

His four goals in all competitions make him United’s second-highest goalscorer this season despite missing eight of their 20 games through injury, and although he has admittedly had some stinkers, there have been enough decent performances – against Nottingham Forest, Burnley and Crystal Palace – to render the narrative that he may as well leave Old Trafford for a retirement home harsh in the extreme.

Is it not more likely – given the speed of his supposed demise – that he’s not fully fit or simply out of form rather than completely f*cked beyond repair?

Anyway, Casemiro’s exit – which reports suggest looks likely in 2024 – would give United the very same problem in midfield as they are currently trying to solve up front. Who better for Mainoo to learn from than a man who has won five Champions League trophies playing in the same position?

Man Utd midfielder Casemiro
Casemiro’s form for Man Utd has dipped significantly this season.

Mainoo may well come into the team and be consistently brilliant, but he’s far more likely to have the same peaks and troughs the vast majority of young players experience when they come into the first team. Casemiro could play alongside him, fill in when required and generally ease what will be an extraordinary load on a teenager’s shoulders, given the porous defence and the host of work-shy forwards in front of him.

Casemiro may well decide he’s had enough of the United spotlight and leave for sunnier Saudi climes, but the decision shouldn’t be made for him by a club that’s in danger of setting themselves, and one of their best young talents, up for failure, by ignoring the sound logic they’re looking to put into action in the case of another. Hojlund needs help and so will Mainoo.