Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley admits Haji Mnoga conundrum - with a surprise solution

Danny Cowley has revealed his Haji Mnoga conundrum as he seeks the perfect position for the youngster to flourish.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 12:00 pm
Danny Cowley is weighing up a playing position for Haji Mnoga. Picture: Joe Pepler

And Pompey’s boss is presently auditioning the 19-year-old for a central midfield role.

The talented Mnoga has primarily operated as a centre-half and right-back through his Academy journey into the Blues’ first-team.

Yet Cowley opted to experiment in the opening pre-season match at QPR, instead surprisingly employing him in midfield for 45 minutes.

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Despite reverting to right-back against the Hawks, the Blues head coach foresees more appearances in central midfield during pre-season.

And he believes it could well prove to be Mnoga’s best position.

‘Haji played the number eight against QPR and did really, really well,’ Cowley told The News.

‘He has these unbelievable athletic attributes and we’re just trying to find the right position for him.

‘When he plays in defence, you are kind of holding him back – and you don’t ever really want to hold athletic, dynamic players back. So we’re going to have a little look at him in midfield to see how he does there.

‘He’s certainly got the pace, power and athleticism to be able to do it.

‘With young players, it’s trying to find the area on the pitch. Every player naturally gravitates to a certain area on the pitch and, with Haji, he is so enthusiastic and energetic, but hasn’t quite got a natural home on the pitch at the moment.

‘We’re trying to work with him tactically to find that.

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‘He’s still playing the game at 100mph and while there are still a lot of qualities with that, you’re trying to add to his game understanding, his positional play and his tactical intelligence.’

Mnoga has so far made 13 appearances for Pompey, registering one goal.

Cowley believes the teenager requires more first-team football to aid his development and previously spoken about sending him on loan.

Presently, however, the Blues boss is not looking that far ahead.

He added: ‘I don’t want to make that call (sending Mnoga on loan) here today because he is doing so well.

‘I have committed to getting him 35 games. We might have to be really disciplined because you are not going to want to let him go out, but if he’s not going to play regularly then maybe you have to make a good decision for him and the club in the long-term.

‘Sometimes that’s your job as a manager, sometimes you have to.

‘You can be selfish as a manager because you know football is always about tomorrow – or you could just try to do the right thing by the club.

‘We try to make every decision with the club’s best interest at heart – and that’s what we’ll do with Haji.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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