Manchester United head into Wednesday’s clash with LASK knowing the hard work is already done.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lead 5-0 from the first leg, meaning wholesale changes are expected.
The likes of Teden Mengi, James Garner and Ethan Laird could all start. But what about United’s bench?
If all three of the above kick off the game, it would be no surprise if some even younger players are given a place on the bench. After all, it is a home clash and United’s first-team stars need a much-deserved rest after their third-place domestic finish.
United’s under-18s only returned to training last week, while their under-23s headed back a week earlier. As for Garner, Laird and Mengi – they have been training with the first-team for some time.
But that is not reason enough to discount a late outing for Hannibal Mejbri. After all, including such a promising talent on the bench would give him the experience of a match-day squad with none of the pressure.
His lack of match fitness would not be an issue given the likelihood of a brief second-half run-out at best.
United have a lot of exciting youngsters but Mejbri is arguably top of the pile.
The Red Devils agreed to pay £9million (Goal) for Mejbri and he has wasted little time impressing at the club.
Still only 17, Mejbri has provided three assists in just five U23 appearances and it seems he has already outgrown U18 football (following 13 appearances at that level).
A sensible substitute
The United youngster still has a long way to go and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not want to rush his progress. That said, a place on the bench this week would be sensible for Mejbri’s learning curve.
If United increase their aggregate lead against LASK, they could well decide that now is the time for Mejbri to make a brief debut. After all, they did the same with a 16-year-old Angel Gomes and the Frenchman could be even better.
United will have plenty of fringe players chomping at the bit, with the likes of Andreas Pereira, Odion Ighalo and Juan Mata likely to start alongside some of the next generation.
But, rather than including senior stars on the bench for a game where they won’t be needed, using more teen talent makes sense.
Of that U18 group, Mejbri is most deserving and it could be a tantalising glimpse of the future.
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