'You can't deny it' - Manchester United ace Kobbie Mainoo makes Man City admission ahead of FA Cup final

Kobbie Mainoo models an authentic anthem jacket from the 1990 FA Cup finalKobbie Mainoo models an authentic anthem jacket from the 1990 FA Cup final
Kobbie Mainoo models an authentic anthem jacket from the 1990 FA Cup final
Kobbie Mainoo is expected to start for Man Utd in the FA Cup final against Manchester City tomorrow.

It was in the wake of Manchester United's last trophy success under the Wembley arch that Erik ten Hag made a beeline for Kobbie Mainoo.

Then 17, he had only played three times for United and was not in the matchday squad for their League Cup victory over Newcastle United. Yet, even in the moment of glory, Ten Hag wanted him to feel part of it.

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The United manager put his arm around the teenager and told him that 'his day would come'. He said they would win trophies together and he would be integral to that success. Tomorrow, he will be in starting line up against Man City.

It has been a meteoric rise for the Stockport-born starlet, who grew up in a City stronghold, but who has beat Red since he can first remember. This weekend, he not only has the chance to win the first major trophy of his career, he has the chance to get one over his literal noisy neighbours.

"I mean growing up, obviously, everyone around me was a City fan, there were only a few of us who had to fight as United fans," he told reporters ahead of the match. "To play in a derby as an FA Cup final is a dream come true."

Mainoo might be a diehard red, but he isn't deluded. He knows just how hard it will be to beat Pep Guardiola's side, having started in the 3-1 defeat to them earlier in the year.

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Recalling that match, he said: "Tough, very tough. They're one of, if not the best team in the world at the moment, you can't deny it. But it's a final and, as everyone knows, in finals anything can happen. We just have to prepare ourselves the best we can and go and give ourselves a chance to win.

"We are not coming to take part, we are coming to win and we know they are doing amazing at the moment but we have to prepare as best we can to give ourselves the best chance of winning."

You only remember just how young Mainoo is when he says he grew up idolising Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford. He even jokes that he used to get compared with Danny Welbeck because of his similar hi-top haircut. He played against him last weekend.

Now, he is at the forefront of the next generation of talented United youngsters who are making an impact at first-team level. It is a pressure he relishes alongside close friend Alejandro Garnacho.

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"This early in my career I just want to help us win and where my career ends up as long as I’ve given everything to the club, then, however it ends I’ll be happy.

"I love football. I've played it all my life and I always feel my best physically when I'm playing a lot of games so all of these games, I love it, playing the game. Two games a week, three games in seven days, I like it. I love the game and I love the club and I wanna help us win."

No matter what happens at Wembley tomorrow, one of the highlights of the season will be the performances of the young players. Rasmus Hojlund has led the line well despite his tender age, while both Mainoo and Garnacho are now starters every single week.

Their impact will always be remembered by the iconic picture of their celebration against West Ham back in February. Supporters have the Argentine teenager to thank for that one.

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"I always ask Garna before the game what's the celebration gonna be if he scores. And he said he wasn't gonna tell me. So he was like, 'I'm not telling you, I'm not telling you.' So I'm like, 'Okay.' I saw him jump up on the advertising board when he scored and me and Rasmus just jumped up there with him.

Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund celebrate against West HamKobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund celebrate against West Ham
Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund celebrate against West Ham

"He wanted it for himself! But yeah, we jumped in there and it was a nice picture. All of us young guys, with Amad as well, we have a lot of fun together and we've definitely grown close this season."

That bond will grow a lot closer if they manage to inspire United to victory this weekend, but no matter what happens next, the FA Cup final will simply be the next step in an incredible journey that has seen a boyhood fan fulfil his childhood dream.

He will always be grateful to Erik ten Hag for making that come true. "It’s definitely meant a lot. Obviously he’s my first manager that I’ve played under and he’s always helped me and given me tips and put an arm around me and protected me as well. You know a young player coming into a United team is always tough.

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"It’s been tough but obviously, I’ve got my opportunity now and I’m just trying to do everything I can do now to help the team and play my part in the team."

Mainoo will certainly have played his part in their next success.

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