england v iceland international friendly 1
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A Message To The Media Regarding Kobbie Mainoo

Let me first start by saying, when I heard someone who gets paid to write about football suggest Kobbie Mainoo lacks physicality and nous live on a platform for the world to see, I thought Ashton Kutcher was doing Punk’d again. Seriously. How could anyone make that statement with a straight face and believe it? Let alone publish it on a platform to millions of people world-wide?

It’s begun already, and unfortunately for Kobbie Mainoo, this is only the beginning. The media hate watching mobs, mixed in with the targeted propaganda. It’s a tale as old as time with mainstream media. Funnily enough, Erik ten Hag highlighted this tale 14 days ago after the FA Cup final; he doesn’t look half bad now, does he? This was after, may I add, Erik ten Hag had won the FA Cup trophy against a team with 115 charges and was grilled about his job. Injuries are no excuse, said Alan Shearer, despite using injuries as an excuse for Eddie Howe’s shortcomings this season. Sounds objective. Sounds fair.

Kobbie Mainoo
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 07: Kobbie Mainoo of England is challenged by Andri Gudjohnsen of Iceland during the international friendly match between England and Iceland at Wembley Stadium on June 07, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Let Mainoo Play:

Back to the topic at hand, however, Kobbie Mainoo. First things first, to the man at the Telegraph, Kobbie Mainoo was not playing as a six last night. Second point: Kobbie Mainoo is not a six; nobody has ever claimed he’s a six, and his overall final role for Manchester United will not be as a number six. I’ve watched him for years, and I’ve followed his career because I truly believed there was a true master of his craft being produced by the brilliant staff behind the scenes at Carrington. Nick Cox has spoken in the past about waiting for the athletic side of Kobbie to come through, and when it did, they knew he was ready for the first team. And he’s shown that this season. He’s played out of position due to the injuries United have had, but his best performances have come in that natural role as a number eight.

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It’s quite incredulous to watch that game last night and come to the conclusion that Declan Rice was not playing as the number six. It’s also even worse to watch the lax approach of England’s press for Iceland’s goal and blame Kobbie Mainoo, who was filling in for Declan Rice, as the sole reason Iceland scored that goal. As journalists, we’re meant to give insight, the keepers of the truth, dare I say, so why have we become the kings of lying?

Many have suggested the reaction online has been an overreaction, but it’s not when you consider what’s come before. Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, David Beckham—the list goes on. Bukayo Saka played 25 minutes last night and was the front page picture for at least four publications after the game. Why? Honestly why? More than 11 players played more minutes than Bukayo Saka; why on earth would he be the front page picture for that England defeat in general? It’s hardly a coincidence at this stage, and to suggest otherwise would be to ignore the issue at hand.

Let’s not act like the media’s criticism of these players is normal. Sterling got criticised for buying a house. Marcus Rashford has been lambasted for the better part of three years for various different things, the majority not even being football related. Harry Maguire, well, let me just say the media’s behaviour towards Harry Maguire over the last four years is some of the most embarrassing and biased examples of journalism I’ve ever had the displeasure of laying my eyes on, and anyone involved in it should be ashamed of themselves.

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The media paints narratives, and people believe them. The media push propaganda, and people take in the propaganda. It’s the type of propaganda that will make you think Marcus Rashford doesn’t work hard. It’s the type of slips of the tongue that convince people Anthony Martial doesn’t care about Manchester United, or Darwin Nunez will never be a good footballer.

The worst thing about last night was that Kobbie had a good performance. He had an 89% pass success rate, one less than Declan Rice. He won 4/6 of his ground duels, a 67% success rate, 27% higher than his midfield partner beside him. Declan Rice is a phenom in midfield. One of my favourite midfielders on the planet, and a player with all the attributes to dominate the middle of the park for Arsenal and England for the next decade, but do we have to drag Kobbie Mainoo down to make excuses for a below-par performance from Rice?

To suggest Kobbie Mainoo lacks physicality and “nous” despite being the most dominant midfielder in a team containing a five-time Champions League winner in Casemiro, one of the best midfielders on the planet in Bruno Fernandes, and a player who was part of a team that went further than England in the last World Cup in the shape of Sofyan Amrabat is one of the most bizarre and uneducated pieces of journalism I’ve seen in my life. To watch that performance at Wembley against arguably the greatest team in Premier League history, where he absolutely dominated from minute one until minute 90, and suggest he lacks the physicality to play alongside Declan Rice, well, let’s just say I know whoever wrote that didn’t even believe it when they were writing it.

The word nous, directly translated, means mind or intellect. This is a 19-year-old who walked into Goodison Park the game after they were deducted points and was the calmest man in a racous atmosphere. This is a guy who rocked up the so called pits of hell in Galatasaray and looked like he’d played in that exact scenario his entire career. Nous? How can we say he lacks nous? You don’t walk into a Manchester United midfield and boss it at 19 years old without having nous, no matter how badly Manchester United are playing.

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We have to remember as journalists that what we write in the public eye holds weight. Our words, no matter how insignificant you may feel they are, spread like wildfire in the modern age of social media. Kobbie Mainoo has the personality and attitude to deal with things like this, but the fact we even have to discuss this after a friendly against Iceland is baffling. Erik ten Hag placed the warning in the public eye last week, the man who’s been criticised to a level that goes beyond constructive since coming into Manchester United. They criticise his voice, his suits, his speech—the list goes on and on. It’s never simply been a fair trial for Erik ten Hag, so he knew better than anyone that even Kobbie Mainoo, as dazzling and brilliant as he is, would face something similar at some point in his career, I doubt he thought it would be this soon, however.

I’m glad I have a public platform to smash back against the mainstream media. Let me just say, nobody’s perfect. I’ve criticised players in the past when I perhaps shouldn’t have, but to ignore when people call you out on your words and act like they’re in the wrong, and not you, that’s where the line has to be drawn. Mainstream media has to do better when it comes to targeted campaigns on young footballers who just want to play the sport they love. Let them play, there’s surely more insightful pieces of journalism you could write than this lads!

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