Paul Pogba’s latest injury blow could rule him out of action for between eight and 10 weeks, report RMC Sport.
The injury is a blow for Pogba and an unwanted complication for United ahead of a busy time of year.
United’s midfield is already thin on options, and the manager has a choice between four players, Fred, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, and Donny van de Beek.
Van de Beek is the obvious winner from this unfortunate injury to Pogba, as his chances of game time should improve.
This is also potentially an opportunity for youth. Step forward Hannibal.
Make Hannibal part of the first team squad
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earned a reputation early into his United tenure as a manager who would give youth a chance. But beyond Mason Greenwood, no other young player has become a regular starter for the Red Devils since the forward made his debut in 2019.
Now he has a chance and a squad gap to integrate Hannibal and make the Tunisia international the fifth midfield option, in Pogba’s absence, for the next 8-10 weeks.
Hannibal has been on the fringes of the first team squad. He made his debut as a substitute on the last day of last season. He featured in pre-season and then trained with the first team early in the campaign.
Injury has delayed Hannibal’s replacement a little. He is expected to make his under-23 comeback after the international break, dropping a hint that he was back in training on social media a fortnight ago.
United don’t have to rush him in right away. There are 8-10 weeks to bring him through. Giving him a week for the under-23s and then fast-tracking him back into the first team squad could be the ideal solution.
Hannibal is a very talented player, with United paying £8 million to sign him from Monaco two years ago. It is about time for United to test that investment out a little more.
Earlier this season Hannibal was very impressive in a central midfield role against Lincoln for United’s under-23s in the EFL Trophy.
Stats via SofaScore showed Hannibal made more touches than any player on the pitch (116), won 16 duels, and provided an assist. It was a performance which highlighted what he could do in a midfield role at a competitive level.
Like Pogba, Hannibal is adaptable and can also play wide on the left, but United’s need is in central midfield and the playmaker is more than capable of becoming a solution for United in a position where one is desperately needed.
Is the time really right?
With Hannibal coming off a minor injury himself, the situation is not ideal, in comparison to if he had two months of fantastic form behind him in which he was already pushing for first team chances.
Nonetheless he will be desperate for a chance however it comes, if the first team coaches decide the time is right. He has waited long enough.
A bigger question mark lies over United’s wretched form. Is it the best time to blood a young player when this team is struggling for confidence?
United must weigh the risk and reward, with the upside being the discovery of a new first team star.
Hannibal possesses passing ability and a willingness to run with the ball which neither Fred or Scott McTominay in particular have the skill set for.
To gamble on Hannibal during the next 8-10 weeks is to gamble on the creation of a new first team star. This could be exactly what the team needs, and the fans, an exciting new player to get behind.
United’s forwards could benefit from Hannibal’s vision and passing range, and the next few weeks could help inform the club’s decision making in January, whether to sign a new player or send the Tunisian out on loan, and even whether to fast-track selling Pogba, if Hannibal steps up successfully.
This opportunity may not come again. Rarely will United’s midfield be so short of options. For a club fame on turning to youth, now is a great opportunity to consider doing so once again.
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