Kobbie Mainoo produced FA Cup masterclass – but does he start for England at Euro 2024?

Kobbie Mainoo bites down on his FA Cup winner's medal
Kobbie Mainoo is an FA Cup winner, now thoughts turn to England - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

When Kobbie Mainoo started the season recovering from ankle surgery, there was little to suggest he would end the campaign scoring the winner in the FA Cup final and preparing for a major international tournament. His man-of-the-match performance at Wembley has raised the question of whether he should start for England at Euro 2024.

Erik ten Hag was on the pitch with Mainoo after the final whistle at Wembley, poking him in the chest in celebration as the 19-year-old had just won the cup for Manchester United. As a boyhood fan, Mainoo watched clips of Eric Cantona on YouTube and has now followed in his footsteps with an FA Cup final winner.

Erik ten Hag hugs his two goalscorers – Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho
Erik ten Hag hugged his two goalscorers – Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

Kalvin Phillips, at Wembley watching his City team-mates, has seen Mainoo overtake him in Gareth Southgate’s pecking order, with the England manager picking the teenager for the first time in March. Jordan Henderson has made way, too. There is still a chance Mainoo could be trimmed from the final squad, but that seems highly unlikely.

The bigger dilemma for Southgate is whether Mainoo fits in his starting line-up to face Serbia on June 16 in Gelsenkirchen. With Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham assured of a place in midfield, there is one space which Mainoo is fighting for along with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

“I’m not the manager,” said Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker, who was part of a defence that saw Mainoo break forward from midfield to score United’s winner (watch video below). “What a talent. This generation of talent coming through is very exciting. Hopefully he can take his form from breaking in this season to the Euros if selected. As my England hat on now, hopefully he has a good Euros.”

Southgate was at Wembley and saw the likes of Walker, John Stones, Phil Foden and Mainoo play their final club match of the season. Jack Grealish was an unused sub and Luke Shaw is not yet fit but he is included in Southgate’s Euro plans.

Mainoo was not in the picture a year ago. At the start of the campaign he was not even in the United squad, having gone with the seniors on pre-season tour but he suffered an ankle injury against Real Madrid that required surgery.

“I thought I was going to hit the ground running at the start of the season but obviously I had an injury against Real Madrid. It required surgery. A little setback. But it didn’t hold me back too much,” said Mainoo, when he broke into the England squad.

It felt like the passing of the baton at Wembley with Casemiro missing out through injury and Mainoo taking centre stage. United’s teenager left the national stadium in a United bucket hat, a true fan who has supported them all his life. He just happened to be spotted during his grassroots days with Cheadle & Gatley and Failsworth Dynamos and went into their Academy before catching the eye.

Kobbie Mainoo celebrates on the Wembley pitch with his winner's medal and a bucket hat
Mainoo celebrated on the Wembley pitch with his winner's medal and a bucket hat - Getty Images/Marc Atkins

“Kobbie went over to the first-team and really endeared himself with all the other players, and didn’t come back because they were desperate for him to go on a journey with them and for him to be a success,” said United Academy head Nick Cox. “He was being looked after by Casemiro and there’s no greater master to the apprentice in that scenario.”

Mainoo said that Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes have been the biggest influences on his career. He is also a huge fan of Ronaldinho as the former Brazil playmaker “played with a smile on his face”.

“He played freely, doesn’t he?” said Mainoo. “I think everyone loves Ronaldinho. How can you not? I mean, he’s a great player.”

There was a huge grin on Mainoo’s face when he left Wembley, having shown those attacking instincts that he loved to watch as a child, while also playing with defensive discipline. Ten Hag says the job now is not to put too much pressure on him.

“It was so enjoyable to watch Kobbie at his age,” said Ten Hag. “We wanted to bring him in this season and in the second game in pre-season he got a bad injury and it took him a long time to get him back.

“We have to keep calm. You are good in England at pushing players really high and then hammer them after one or two bad performances.”