Ghana trying to convince Man Utd’s Kobbie Mainoo to switch allegiance
Mainoo, centre, celebrates his late winning goal against Wolves on Thursday night
The Ghana FA is trying to persuade Kobbie Mainoo to ditch England and represent the African nation instead.
Mainoo’s breakthrough season hit new heights on Thursday when he scored a stunning stoppage-time winner in Manchester United’s 4-3 victory away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 18-year-old midfielder, described as a “generational talent” by his team-mate Rasmus Hojlund, also scored four days earlier in the 4-2 win over Newport County and has played 15 times for Erik ten Hag’s side.
Mainoo’s progression has not gone unnoticed in Ghana, the homeland of his parents, where Mainoo regularly visits during his time off. The midfielder has represented England at three different age groups, but the Ghana FA still thinks it has a chance of persuading him to play for them.
“The Ghana Football Association is interested in monitoring, attracting, and persuading all eligible talents for its various national teams,” Randy Abbey, a member of the executive council of Ghana FA, told The Times. “Kobbie is definitely one of such incredible talents, and the Association will love to work with him and many like him home and abroad.”
Ghana need a talisman after what Abbey described as a “disastrous” Africa Cup of Nations campaign in which they failed to qualify from their group.
Mainoo’s 97th-minute winner at Molineux came after he slipped the ball between Max Kilman’s legs and curled the ball into the far corner. The midfielder described it as a “dream” scenario for him given that he has been at the club since the age of eight. “To start playing in the Premier League for my boyhood club has been amazing,” Mainoo said. “Now [I am] just trying to get a good run of games in, win more games and get real momentum going.”
Hojlund has grown close to Mainoo since the striker arrived from Atalanta last summer.
“We enjoy spending time outside [the pitch] together,” the 20-year-old Dane said. “Us young guys, we have a little group and we’re chatting to each other and it’s very cool to have other young players around the team and hopefully we can set an era for the club and be here many years together.
“Kobbie is so relaxed on the ball. Now he’s also starting to show that he has the scoring parts of his game as well. He’s a complete player.”
Ten Hag, meanwhile, has admitted that he will have to be “creative” with his team selection in the final stages of the season after the board were unable to sign the striker that he wanted.
Ten Hag said it was “no secret” that he wanted to buy a forward in the January transfer window, but he was told that United would risk breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
It has left Ten Hag with just five senior players — Marcus Rashford, Antony, Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Martial — to fill three forward positions and Martial is out for the next ten weeks with a groin injury.
“I wanted a striker,” Ten Hag said. “With the injury to Martial we don’t really have the back-up. But it wasn’t possible because we have to match the FFP rules. We have Omari [Forson], we have Amad Diallo. Of course we have Rashford who can play there. But I think for the rest, all the positions are occupied. We have to be a little bit creative, it’s up to the No 9 position.”
Sofyan Amrabat and Victor Lindelof are expected to return for Sunday’s home match against West Ham United.
Long-term absentees Tyrell Malacia (knee) and Mason Mount (calf) are out and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (leg) is also a doubt.
Mount, a £60 million summer signing from Chelsea, has not played for the past three months but Ten Hag insists that he will feature for his team again this term.
“It is very frustrating for him and I really feel for him,” Ten Hag said of the 25-year-old England international.
“I am sure he is a very good player for us. But, first of all, what’s now important is we have to do it very secure to get him fit, secure in the process, step by step, don’t force it and then hopefully by the end of the season he can stay fit and fight his way into the team, or at least play a role in his team.”