Any slim prospects of Manchester United signing Jack Grealish appear to be going. The only way United would make it happen this summer would be if Paul Pogba is sold and the money was re-invested into Grealish. This would be a foolhardy move considering the team’s need for a defensive midfielder.

Grealish appears to be heading to Manchester City. Sky Sports report a £100 million bid has gone in and Aston Villa are expected to accept it. Grealish had a very strong 2020/21 season and the clamour for his signature is not unexpected.

United were strongly linked a year ago, before Villa avoided relegation thanks in part to a Hawkeye error. The chances of signing Grealish for a cut-price fee disappeared and United moved for the cheaper Donny van de Beek instead.

Van de Beek’s struggles coupled with Jadon Sancho’s arrival show how congested United’s attack is. There would be no guaranteed starting place for him and only City can afford to make such splurges on a player who may not be a weekly starter.

United also have a very talented young player coming through who can be the club’s own Jack Grealish. Enter Hannibal Mejbri.

Manchester United v Brentford - Pre-season Friendly
(Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Creative force

Hannibal is 18-years-old and is not ready to step in as a regular into Manchester United’s XI right now. And that’s fine, because as with Grealish, there is no specific spot available. This can change in the years ahead, and Hannibal can force his way in.

United signed Hannibal at 16 from Monaco, paying £8 million for him. Within weeks he had stepped up from the under-18s to the under-23s.

Last season Hannibal provided more assists than any other under-23 player. His range of passing is so impressive as he is able to create from deep and set off counter attacks, or play the more intricate passes in a crowded final third.

Last season he went on to make his first team debut and Hannibal is now a full international with Tunisia.

What makes Hannibal similar to Jack Grealish is not just his eye for a pass, it is his ability to dribble past players and win fouls. Hannibal seems to be the most fouled player in academy football in England, and United have pleaded with the FA to get a grip on the situation.

 

United coach Neil Wood told the MEN earlier this year: “I think Hannibal has lots of quality and the frustrating point for him is that there must be about 15 fouls on him per game.”

United want to avoid Hannibal getting a serious injury, quite understandably. But winning free-kicks is and can be an asset for his side as Jack Grealish has demonstrated for Aston Villa.

Grealish drew 109 fouls last season, 21 more than the nearest player in the Premier League, despite missing several weeks at the end of the season.

Star in development

At 18, the next three or four years will be crucial to Hannibal’s development. During that time he can establish himself as a key part of Manchester United’s side.

Hannibal can play as part of the three in a midfield 4-3-3 or on the left of attack as he did for United’s under-23s at times last season.

Speaking on his ability to play in multiple positions, Hannibal told the club website: “I’m a bit more versatile now. I used to be able to play in and around the centre of midfield, now I play on the left, a bit on the right and even a bit further forward.”

Derby County v Manchester United - Pre-Season Friendly
(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

United can wait until Hannibal is ready, and when he is, he will be able to add another dimension to the team’s attack.

Hannibal can become the multi-million player City are getting in Jack Grealish as he develops over the next few years.

With the Tunisian teenager continuing to make progress, it makes even more sense that United did not re-engage in the chase for Grealish this summer at £100 million.

These type of funds have been put towards Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, and any extra money will go on a defensive midfielder and/or a right-back.

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