Hannibal Mejbri likely set a Manchester United record when he came made his debut for the under-23 side on Monday evening. The 16-year-old signed in the summer and had only started once for the under-18s before the tough trip to Birmingham.
Aston Villa hammered United with four first-half goals. But United’s side was extraordinarily young and then reduced to 10 men after questionable refereeing sent captain Dishon Bernard off in the first half.
Mejbri changed the game on debut
Mejbri entered and raised the tempo of United’s game. It was an impressive half-hour cameo in what is the final step before United’s first team. Mejbri is a midfielder brought in for €10million from AS Monaco in the summer. The expectations for him are subsequently high but so far, he’s earning the rightful praise of coaches and watchers-on.
Given the short amount of time on the pitch, it’s futile over-praising Mejbri’s performance. On the other hand, he came into a side that was four goals and one man down and took control of the fixture.
United watching Mejbri for years
Mejbri was brought to United after being watched from the age of 11. AS Monaco bought him first but the Reds kept an eye before moving in this summer to beat Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester City, Arsenal and Bayern Munich to his signature.
He’s stepped up to the challenge of United and is a seriously exciting prospect. United are not the type of club to spend such an amount on a 16-year-old who is not a genuine first-team prospect. Mejbri is that.
Robbie Brady was one player who came into the under-23s just as quickly as he did the under-18s for United. It’s not a common occurrence. In Mejbri’s case it was forced due to injuries, suspensions and first-team promotions.
Promising signs for future
To come into the under-23s in such a scenario shows both great attitude and ability. Mejbri’s on-ball quality is exciting though his defensive positioning is questionable. He’s able to change the flow of a game because of his quality dribbling from his own box across the halfway line.
The biggest praise for a 16-year-old playing with footballers more than a half a decade older than him is that he didn’t look out of place. Not only that, but he looked like he’d been playing at that level for a couple of years. It’s a promising sign for the future.
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