Erik ten Hag may soon face a major dilemma regarding Hannibal Mejbri, who has featured regularly for Manchester United in recent weeks. The young midfielder has often been involved for the Red Devils as of late, with several key injuries paving the way for him to play at first-team level.
Hannibal came off the bench to score against Brighton last month before starting for United in their fixtures against Burnley and Crystal Palace, the latter in the Carabao Cup. He was then given the nod by Ten Hag to start in the Champions League against Galatasaray, although he was substituted for Christian Eriksen at the break.
It remains to be seen whether Hannibal will be able to keep his place in the starting eleven for long, though, with a number of players set to return from injuries over the next few weeks. Luke Shaw will return to United’s starting line-up at left-back when he recovers from a muscle problem, freeing up Sofyan Amrabat to play in his natural midfield role alongside Casemiro.
This could see Hannibal slip down the pecking order at Old Trafford, given that Ten Hag worked hard to land Amrabat over the summer and clearly sees him as an important player in the middle of the park. Meanwhile, the recent return of Mason Mount has given Hannibal even more competition to feature for United on a consistent basis.
It seems as though it will be a straight fight between Hannibal and Mount to play alongside Amrabat and Casemiro and Amrabat in United’s midfield. Hannibal’s importance has grown in recent weeks thanks to his impressive running in the engine room, with the 20-year-old covering more ground than any other player on the pitch against Burnley.
However, United paid £55million to sign Mount during the summer window and Ten Hag is unlikely to reduce him to a spot on the bench after just a few months at Old Trafford. It will be interesting to see which player will end up having the edge over the other, but Hannibal will have high hopes of coming out on top if he keeps working hard and impressing his manager when given the opportunity.
Ten Hag recently waxed lyrical over Hannibal by insisting that he is setting the standard for his United team-mates, which suggests that he will have every chance of keeping his place in the side if he continues to earn it on merit.
“I think he [Hannibal] gives a very good message to the rest of the squad, that this is the demand and this has to be the standard,” said the United boss last week. “When you are playing that position, [this is] what you have to bring to the team to get success, especially when you are playing against possession teams.
“He is a really good fit and can give a good contribution to a good performance and to a result. I don’t think it is that quick because before I came here he was already in the first team. He made his debut and, last year, he was on loan, so this year he is making progress. That’s why he deserved an opportunity and he has now taken the opportunity.” Hannibal will have to keep impressing to continue starting, however.
Want the latest Premier League news as we publish it on Express Sport? Join our Facebook group by clicking here.