Three ways Hannibal proved he should start for Manchester United against Chelsea

Manchester United face Chelsea this week in the Premier League at Old Trafford, looking for a big result against a top team.

After back to back losses against Liverpool and Arsenal, United need a big performance, and it may be time to try something different.

One option is to rest Bruno Fernandes, who has played 134 games in the past 22 months. His performances have looked tired, with the man himself mentally exhausted.

But instead of selecting Jesse Lingard or Juan Mata, both set to be released this summer, it’s time to look at the future, and Hannibal Mejbri has proven he deserves a start…

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

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Desire

Hannibal had a brief cameo performance away at Liverpool last week, in circumstances which were less than ideal. Harry Maguire even played him a ‘hospital pass’ leading to the home side’s fourth goal.

What Hannibal did show was a desire to make the team better, offering for the ball and moving into space, he was not scared.

His tackling even earned him plaudits from Gary Neville, who told Sky Sports: “To be fair, at least the kid showing a bit of something. He’s sprinting to make a tackle and showing the rest of them.

“I’m proud of him. May be he doesn’t like the rest of them passing around him. I wish the rest were the same. That kid to be fair, he’s giving it some at least.”

Bryan Robson echoed this, telling MUTV: “You have to have control, and Hannibal took that right to the edge. I quite liked it. The fans want to see someone who cares. The kid only had five mins so at least he showed some pride.”

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Temperament

United tested Hannibal after the Liverpool game. Rather than throw him full tilt into the Arsenal match, after hearing the praise for his brief showing at Anfield, he was dropped down into the under-23s on Friday night.

It was a test he passed with flying colours. Hannibal did not sulk, if he was frustrated to be there he didn’t show it, and he gained more experience playing in front of fans at Old Trafford.

Hannibal played with a smile on his face, and unlike at Anfield, he did not run around clattering into opponents, instead he let his football do the talking.

This was important to see, and would have indicated to Ralf Rangnick that if he puts Hannibal into the first team again, he will get a measured and mature performance from a player who can be a big part of United’s future.

It was also striking to see in the under-23 game that Hannibal did not try to force the issue, to try to be the star and make a point to Rangnick. Instead he was unselfish in possession and played his natural game.

Quality

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

Two of United’s best moments in the under-23 tie came from moves Hannibal engineered. One was with a wonderfully crafted backheel to set off a counter attack which saw two United shots saved.

The other came from a solo run from Hannibal where he went evaded four opponents to get into the Arsenal box, before passing the ball to striker D’Mani Mellor, who was better placed to shoot.

His confidence in possession would be welcome. United need players who can get their foot on the ball and pick a pass, and Hannibal can do so. He has already made 11 international appearances for Tunisia by the age of 19.

Hannibal has played in various positions for United’s under-23 side over the past couple of seasons, as a deep lying midifelder, attacking midfielder, winger, and even a false nine.

The attacking midfield or wing role are where he is most likely to feature for the first team as he would be seen as less of a defensive risk for a team which is leaking goals, but at the same time, injuries could provide an opportunity for him.

With just four games remaining, this is one of just two home fixtures United have left. If United are going to give Hannibal his first start, it would be great to do it at Old Trafford.

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