It would be fair to say that 18-year-old Mason Greenwood is a generational talent at Manchester United after his meteoric rise to the first team and the fact he has made 48 appearances for the club so far this season, scoring 16 goals and assisting five more. He has played 2,329 minutes of football so far this season, with three more matches of the domestic season left to play before the UEFA Europa League commences – he is one exciting prospect at the club; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is pleased.
That said, Greenwood is not the only exciting player at the Old Trafford club, especially in the youth ranks. Last summer, United signed 16-year-old Hannibal Mejbri, now 17, who had a good season, despite youth football ending back in March because of the coronavirus pandemic which suspended world football, cancelling many leagues in Europe. The French teenager is highly rated and his transfer was kept under wraps last summer, as much as it could have been anyway.
His departure will be rued by AS Monaco, who seem to have lost a player who could be a generational talent. Mejbri has made 20 appearances for United at U18 and U23 level this season, starting 15 times and coming off the bench five times, scoring one goal, assisting five more. Granted, he may have a lot more to do in order to make his meteoric rise to the first team but Solskjaer will be watching his progress closely as he looks at add more creativity, drive, determination and flair into the midfield.
There were many reports in the media about Mejbri’s prospective (at the time) move to United but they kept it as quiet as they could with rumours coming out close to the time the player arrived at the club. Nicky Butt, who at the times was the head of the clubs academy, now the head of first team development, responsible for academy players making the rise into the first team, just like he did from the Class of 1992 all those years ago. Mejbri, if he keeps in the right track, will end up doing the same. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News back in February, Butt, speaking about Mejbri, said:
“Hannibal [Mejbri]’s a leader. The way he plays his football is 100mph, he’s non-stop running up and down.
“He’s got his own path. We make sure when we sign players we always speak to the parents and give them an example of all different ways of getting into Manchester United’s first-team.
“Hannibal is different to Paul [Pogba] when Paul was a youth team player. He’s not as powerful as Paul, he isn’t as dominant as him, he’s a different kind of player to Paul but we all know about the talent he’s got. It’s been written out there in the press many times with the signing and the fee.
“But he’s a young man who’s come to a new country who needs a bit of time. He’s a very, very talented boy but he’s still very immature. He’s still a baby, he’s just 17.
“He’s not got anything on him just yet, he needs to build up his size and build up his physicality. Talent-wise, he’s got such an immense talent to go on and play at a high level but there’s a long way to go yet.”
United paid £9.3 million for Mejbri last summer, which was reported by The Sun, also in February, which might be a lot of money for an unproven teenager, but it just shows how valued he was by Monaco, despite the fallout between him and the club which has been catalogued in multiple places since, even written about by this website (which you can read here). If the player continues on his rise to stardom, which is something he can do at United, he is going to be a massive talent.
At the time United signed the player, there was a lot of hype surrounding him, which is something that Butt wanted to shield him from, protecting the player in his tender years so it did not affect him at a later stage. This does not seem to be the case though, the player did not even rise to abuse from Leeds United supporters when United beat them in the FA Youth Cup earlier this season. t could show his character, which will help him succeed in the future. As reported by The Sun, Butt spoke about signing Mejbri, saying:
“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.”
It shows that the protection is there from the club, especially Butt who knows that it is like to come through the academy and on the cusp of first team football, presumably why he’s in the role of helping players develop between youth and senior football now, looking out for the player and th rigours of what is to come. Could Mejbri be a shock promotion to the first team this summer for Solskjaer? Could he be involved in the UEFA Europa League this season? Who knows? One thing is for sure, the more you hear about Hannibal Mejbri now, will make you thirstier to see that the player can do in the near future. Can he rise like Greenwood did? He has the talent, in time you will see.
Written by John Walker