Next Up: How Mainoo became Man Utd's main man

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‘As a youngster, he was a centre forward’

Entering the Manchester United academy, a famous factory of talent that produced the Busby Babes and the Class of ’92, is no mean feat.

But of the thousands of kids that spend time at a club of United’s size, only a handful will possess the talent, drive and fortune to make it as professional footballers. Even fewer still will progress to the United first team.

That alone speaks to Mainoo’s technical and mental qualities – all of which were apparent to Nick Cox, United’s academy director.

All of our boys are high-potential but you certainly could see that Kobbie had some attributes that meant we wanted to continue working with him,” he tells Sky Sports.

“As time unfolded, it became clear he potentially had the ability to go on and play for our first team.

“On the pitch – even as a little ‘un – he was then what he is now. He’s mastered the ball – he manipulates it brilliantly.

“You could tell he had athletic potential and now you see a powerful, explosive player.

“As a little kid, we were waiting for that to come, but we could sense it was a matter of time.”

Not that Mainoo had been dominating the midfield from an early age. “As a youngster, he was a centre-forward and scored a lot of goals,” revealed Cox.

“I’ve seen him play in all sorts of attacking positions. Around the age of 15, 16, he was more of an attacking midfielder.”

Not that United was Mainoo’s only focus. He continued to play for Shots, a grassroots club coached by Paul Newton, who previously worked with Mainoo at Cheadle and Gatley.

Kobbie Mainoo may be known all over Europe now but Shots was home to some famous names – Kai Rooney, Jacey Carrick, Ben Aguero, Roman Walker and Tyler and Jack Fletcher have all been through the club.

But Mainoo’s ability to make a name for himself was in evidence back in 2017, when he scored the winning goal as Shots claimed the North West Junior Champions League – a competition Newton said he had been trying to win for a decade.

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