Maybe, just maybe, we are getting closer to Hannibal Mejbri’s inevitable Manchester United debut.
Whether from the start or from the bench, this weekend’s Premier League match between United and Wolves provides the perfect opportunity to give Hannibal his first taste of first team action.
It is clear he has earned it. Hannibal has been training with United’s first team squad since March.
Last night it was announced he has won the Denzil Haroun award for Manchester United’s best under-23 player.
Coach Neil Wood praised Hannibal’s versatility which enables him to play in various positions in United’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Wood told the club website: “
I think the Liverpool away game was the first time he played out on the left. We trialled him in a little training game and the training ground to just have a look at him, to see if he could do it. He did really well, I thought he was excellent. I feel it’s important he has a few positions he can play in and a few positions he can excel in and make an impact, rather than just be a no. 10 or a higher midfielder.
“It’s important, at times I’d drop him into a lower midfield role to see if he could play with a bit of discipline, could work hard, tackle and get on the ball and build up momentum and be sharper. He played left, no. 10 a bit of a false 9, a free role, dropping in between to take up positions.“
Hannibal’s creativity has helped him stand out. He led United’s under-23 team in assists this past season, linking up extremely effectively with Anthony Elanga, knowing the right time to pass from deep and pick out his runs on the counter attack.
This season Hannibal has been playing largely in the attacking third, but he is also capable of playing deeper in midfield, due to his passing range.
United clearly see the value in pushing him further forward, and Hannibal has been able to show his quality with his shooting, scoring four goals, each of high quality.
United paid around £9 million to sign Hannibal as a 16-year-old from Monaco. From that moment he was marked as a star of the future, and his academy award win shows he is on the right track.
He has an edge to him
Hannibal is the type of player who will get home fans on their feet, and opposition fans booing and jeering his every move. He has a edge to him, and opponents find him hard to deal with.
This has often led to Hannibal being hacked down by opponents, and he has found it tough to keep his cool too, receiving two red cards. The second came as a second booking when he asked the referee to book an opponent who fouled him, and he farcically ended up being dismissed himself.
Hannibal needs to learn to keep his discipline, and this is part of the learning process for him.
The best comparison in terms of playing style is Jack Grealish. Like the Aston Villa playmaker, Hannibal is a strong creative passer, can dribble past opponents, and gets fouled frequently because other teams don’t know how else to stop him.
This weekend against Wolves feels like the right time to give Hannibal his chance, whether for five minutes or 90. He is at the stage where he needs to be pushed, and has committed his future to United with a new contract earlier this year. The hype for Hannibal is justified and he is just getting started.
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