Kobbie Mainoo makes impression on Gareth Southgate as Man United teenager pushes for first England start

Kobbie Mainoo makes impression on Gareth Southgate as Man United teenager pushes for first England start

Kobbie Mainoo could be handed his first start for England in their Wembley clash against Belgium on Tuesday, with Jordan Henderson unavailable through injury.

Henderson missed some of England’s training sessions last week with a muscle injury. Despite completing training on Monday, the Ajax man won’t be risked against Belgium, Gareth Southgate has revealed.

Declan Rice will captain England for the first time on the occasion of his 50th cap and, with Henderson the latest in an unprecedented list of injuries this month, Manchester United 18-year-old Mainoo could partner him in midfield.

Mainoo was originally called up to the England Under-21s this month, before Southgate promoted him to the seniors. He came off the bench to make his debut against Brazil in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Wembley, with Henderson not featuring.

Southgate said of 81-cap Henderson on Monday: “He trained this morning, but he is still aware of the problem he has had. He has wanted to give himself every chance, but he will not be available.”

Asked whether he would pick Mainoo or instead move Jude Bellingham back to partner Rice, the England manager replied: “We have a couple of options with that. We have looked at both of those things in training across the week, so definitely Kobbie has a chance for tomorrow.”

“He seems very calm,” Southgate said of Mainoo. “You can see he is taking everything in. Talking to him tactically, he seems able to take all those concepts on. A lot of young players now, with their academy education, are able to do that.

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

“You can see his comfort with the ball and receiving in tight areas. There are a lot of steps being taken in a very short period of time, but you saw in the brief cameo the other day some of the qualities he has.

“Sometimes, with the really young ones, they are not even thinking about that. It is all flowing and maybe then as you get a bit older you start to think about it a bit more. It is a beautiful, innocent moment when he is just in the flow and lapping up the opportunities as they come.”

He added: “Kobbie is still developing. In terms of progress into our squad, he is benefitting because we are not as rich in resources in that area. But we are really happy to see how he has dealt with training, and we see things he can bring already.

“But I am mindful that we have to look after him and make sure his development is at the right speed but the opportunities are there as well.”

Meanwhile, Southgate is set to hand Brentford’s Ivan Toney his first England start a year after he made his only previous appearance. The England manager also revealed he considered calling up Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke this month.

Southgate said: “Did he [Toney] drop out of our thoughts [during his betting ban]? No, because we always felt he’s a good finisher.

“Similar to Kane, he finds quality through-passes. There’s a little bit more to his game than just being the big man.

“With [Callum] Wilson having been injured, it’s been [Ollie] Watkins, Toney, [Dominic] Solanke that we’re tracking. At the moment we feel Ollie has had a very good season in all aspects. And, with Ivan having been with us [before], he was slightly ahead of Dom.”