Manchester United spent the bulk of Erik ten Hag's first summer in charge trying to sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona. The new manager had nurtured the midfielder's rise at Ajax and saw him as the key to enacting the style of play he wished United to adopt.
De Jong's ability to take the ball from the defence and zip into attack while calmly evading pressure was so highly coveted by Ten Hag that United were prepared to pay Barca €85 million ($93m/£73m) for him. And when they learned that De Jong was not interested in swapping Catalunya for Manchester, they kept on trying to convince him for over a month. They finally threw in the towel in late August and signed Casemiro, a brilliant player in his own right, but of a very different profile to De Jong.
Until his alarming drop off in form this season, Casemiro raised United's competitive spirit and gave them more power and muscle in midfield, but their style of play was markedly similar to before. They still lacked a figure like De Jong who could lead their transition into a team that wanted to play with fluidity, but last summer decided not to go shopping for a mobile defensive midfielder like the Dutchman.
The reason why was that they knew they had their own midfield gem on their hands, a teenager called Kobbie Mainoo who had already had a taste of first-team football and was ready for more. And after recovering from a freak ankle injury that set his breakthrough into the first team back by four months, Mainoo finally made his full Premier League debut against Everton on Sunday, and the 18-year-old looked like the most comfortable player on the pitch.
After just 72 minutes of action, it looks as if United have found the player they were searching for when they began their doomed quest to sign De Jong. Mainoo may be young and inexperienced, but he has the capacity to transform the Red Devils' style of play and rescue their season.