Hannibal Mejbri is into his second year as a Manchester United youngster after his 2019 move from Monaco.
United paid a fee which The Independent report could reach £9.3 million, a hefty figure for a player who was just 16 at the time.
Fortunately Mejbri has the talent to match. After dazzling for the under-18s last season and starring in the team’s FA Youth Cup run to the semi-finals, he has become a regular for the under-23s.
United tested the water with Mejbri in the under-23s last season. He played five times, but only once as a starter. To his credit he contributed three assists in these games.
This season there is no caution on United’s part. The coaching staff have challenged him to step up.
He’s got United’s backing
Mejbri has been a regular for the under-23s this season. United have shown what they think of him by giving the Frenchman a key role in the side.
The teenager has started all eight under-23 games, playing the full 90 minutes in six of them. He has also started in all three EFL Trophy games, completing two.
With 11 starts from 11, Mejbri has been given the platform to make an impact, and largely he has seized it.
The young Frenchman leads United’s under-23 side for assists with five, while he has also scored three goals.
There have been times where he has drifted in and out of games and is not yet the dominant force he is capable of becoming. But United will be thrilled with his progress.
United have played him in multiple positions too. He has featured as a typical central midfielder, in an attacking role, and even been asked to fill in up front as a false nine on a couple of occasions.
Mejbri’s elevation to becoming a regular has been helped by the exit of Angel Gomes, and the loan departures of James Garner and Dylan Levitt. With regard to the latter duo, this was deliberate on United’s part. Both players needed new challenges, and United let them leave knowing full well that the club had players capable of stepping up.
A lesson learned
Mejbri’s run of games will come to an end this week. He was sent off in the 87th minute against West Ham in a 2-0 defeat on Friday.
United had largely been the better team but were not clinical enough. Mejbri’s petulant side showed when he kicked out during a tussle for the ball near the corner flag.
It was a cheap sending off. It wasn’t a particularly violent kick, but it was an act of aggression, and a needless one.
This has been coming for Mejbri. He gets fouled a lot and at times his frustration boils over. He has been a little fortunate on other occasions this season to escape punishment.
He now faces a suspension which could curtail his 2020 and he will have to reflect on the way he allowed his frustration to get the better of him. United have players who can step up, but the under-23s will be worse off without him.
United have given Mejbri real backing this season. He has largely repaid it. Now he must deal with this fresh challenge. It’s over to him now to keep his emotions in check and let his football do the talking.
Mejbri is a player with the potential to reach the first team. It seems inevitable. He just needs to keep up his current progress, with eight goal contributions from 11 toal appearances.
Reaching double figures for assists this season could be a big achievement.
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