In the scorching heat on Sunday, Manchester United showcased their enviable team depth with a win over Derby County, using 23 players as they headed for a comfortable 2-1 victory.
Tom Heaton and Facundo Pellistri both impressed in the senior squad’s first performances, although it’s hard to be too excited to beat a team that has only avoided relegation from the league by one. only point on the last day of last season.
The same can be said for teenage midfielder Hannibal Mejbri who impressed during his late appearance on the pitch, imitating Jack Grealish with a daring skill that allowed him to nutmeg an opponent without touching the ball.
It was the last dusting of gold dust atop an already stellar show reel of his time in the U23 – but again, it’s hard to get carried away by the hype for a player who doesn’t. played only eight minutes of Premier League Football.
One only needs to look at Sunday’s first goalscorer Tahith Chong to see that reserve team fame rarely translates into the first team, although others might point optimistically to Mason Greenwood as proof that it can happen.
Regardless of which bracket the Tunisian teenager is in, the next two weeks should shed some light on Hannibal’s actual progress with the 18-year-old for a long preseason in the absence of maestros from more recognizable midfield.
Donny van de Beek, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes are not expected to return to United training until the start of next week, which means that the three of them are unlikely to start all three in the game against Brentford in a week. Wednesday. The trio will also miss the trip to QPR this weekend, leaving space in midfield for Hannibal to make his mark before the senior stars pile up minutes before the season opener against Leeds.
The strongest teams are expected to enter the pitch for the final two friendlies against Preston and Everton, with returning international stars expected to be involved according to their own schedules after the conclusion of this summer’s big tournaments.
Hannibal himself was a late return to Carrington last week after being given extra leave early in the preseason following his international involvement with the Tunisian national team. The teenager made his international debut in a victory over DR Congo on June 5, before making new appearances against Algeria and Mali a week later.
He will now face Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata for a starting role at Loftus Road this weekend, before hoping to secure his first senior action at Old Trafford against Brentford in nine days.
If he manages to impress in either of these cases, then he could secure a place as Bruno Fernandes’ understudy for the coming campaign, although time is on his side to secure a long-term future for United if the scenario dream does not. to play.
In the worst case, Hannibal will end up this summer as the star of the U23, or possibly on loan. Ideally, he could become the last youngster to get a permanent promotion to Solskjaer’s senior squad.
The next fortnight should give us the answer.
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