Manchester United academy midfielder Hannibal Mejbri could be given a first team role at the club next season, according to reports. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been keeping a close eye on the player, after his high profile move to the club from AS Monaco last summer. His first season has shown his ability, something which could be utilised further.
He may only still be 17 but he came to the club after already having been tipped to have a glittering career in the game and United were adamant that they would sign the player, completing the £9.3 million deal nearly a year ago with the player making his debut at U18 and U23 level this season, possibly seeking him rise further next season.
The coronavirus pandemic suspended world football in mid-March ending up cancelling youth football, meaning the player will not be seen again this season, unless Solskjaer wants to give him a chance now, which might not seem logical given that he would be at least sixth-choice in the midfield ranks and would seldom play first team football.
However, there is a chance that he should shine when called upon, meaning he would give the Norwegian manager a good headache, adding some glittering ability to his team, possible saving the club money when they dabble in the transfer window this summer, or whenever the new transfer window opens, which might not actually be until August.
At this moment in time, Solskjaer has Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic in the first team, with the likes of James Garner and Dylan Levitt in the U23s and seeking first team football. However, the pair could be loaned out next season, making a space at that level for Mejbri, where he would regularly play.
This would keep him match fit and not expecting to play week in and week out in the first team, which probably would not happen next season, unless he did well on his debut, doing enough to stay in the squad, which would be fairytale-like and not necessarily something that would happen – but you never know.
Nicky Butt, who came through the clubs academy, graduating in the famous Class of 1992 with the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville was the head of the academy last summer before stepping up to the role as head of first team development, keeping an eye on players like Mejbri. When the Frenchman was signed, Butt said:
“It’s hard to get him under the radar when we’ve chased him for so long and he’s come from a big club for a big fee, so that’s impossible.
“But you want to get young people under the radar because, coming from a different country and getting the price tag in your head and coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world, there’s going to be so much pressure in the first place.
“I’ve got a 16-year-old kid who, I would hate that pressure on their shoulders…
“But they have that and it’d be foolish to put them out there too soon, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. They’re children.”
Mejbri has made a total of 20 appearances at youth level this season (15 starts and five substitute appearances) playing at both U18 and U23 level. He has scored one goal and five assists since making his debut back in August 2019 after receiving international clearance after his transfer. If he makes the first team, he will not be classed as a homegrown player, which is not really an issue given that United have many of those already.