Last month, Hannibal Mejbri committed his future to Manchester United by signing a new long-term contract with The Reds. The French prodigy was signed by the club back in 2019 when he moved from Monaco to Manchester in a deal that could add up to €10 million if he achieves a number of clauses.
Hannibal, as he prefers to be named as, has been one of the standout performers for the Under-23s this season, getting four goals and eight assists in just 20 appearances – his influence, however, is so much broader than just goals or assists.
His consistent performances for Neil Wood’s side has not only earnt him a new contract, but also a place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team squad and if it wasn’t for a collarbone injury sustained against Arsenal Under-23s in February, Hannibal could’ve made his first-team debut by now.
Hannibal’s general playstyle
As an attacking player, Hannibal is usually operating through the middle as a number 10, or on the left side of a front three. Whether he is in the centre or on the left, the Frenchman often drifts around the pitch, looking to help in the build-up or make numerical overloads in different areas of the pitch.
He constantly wants to get on the ball and then drive with it with his impressive ball carrying abilities – similar to that of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish. Hannibal also has different types of turns, flicks and tricks in his locker which make him a natural when looking to link up with his teammates in tight areas.
While he has all of the attacking flair, the 18-year-old also has a brilliant workrate, mentality and drive which shines through whenever he plays – sometimes not always for the right reasons though! Nicky Butt has recently left his position as the head of first-team development at United, but he has previously mentioned that Hannibal is a leader in the youth set-up, last year he told MEN: “We’ve got the old-fashioned leaders if you like, who are going to talk to the players and drive the team. Hannibal [Mejbri]’s a leader. The way he plays his football is 100mph, he’s non-stop running up and down.“
What he offers
With brilliant close control and a direct running technique, Hannibal is often found powering through the centre of the pitch with the ball at his feet, with the ability to skip past players in transitions or when they’re in a settled shape.
This is a great way of progression and he will even drop off to pick the ball up from his centre-backs in order to progress the ball forward – but most of the time he will be utilising these skills in the middle of the pitch, driving into the final third.
More often than not, the only solutions his opponents have is to either let the midfielder go past them, or to bring him down and concede a foul, as the Frenchman has a superb first touch, on-the-ball awareness and always ensures he has his body in front of the ball when being challenged. This has led to him being one of the most fouled players in the Premier League 2.
This is not the only way that Hannibal looks to progress the play for his team, he will usually aim to switch the play with accurate long passes to the flanks and he also has the ability to break the lines with his passing, in those situations, his weight of pass is a dream for the receiver, most recently shown against West Ham Under-23s
Anthony Elanga found the Frenchman in the centre and made a darting pass beyond the opposition backline on the left-hand side. Hannibal set himself perfectly with his first-touch and calmly struck the pass in behind the West Ham backline, finding the feet of his teammate with ease.
Not only does he possess an impressive passing range, but Hannibal is also is great at linking up the play through flicks, turns or quick passes in tight situations.
In the final third, Hannibal has shown that he has the ability to turn his excellence into goals and assists. With a well-weighted final ball, the midfielder can set his teammates up well, and then in the contrasting situation where he is found in front of goal, there is a coolness in his finishing shown no better than through his goal against Blackburn Rovers Under-23s, where he dispatched the ball into the top corner from a tight angle with ease.
With so much technical ability, Hannibal also possesses other strengths which could help see him become a top-class player. As previously mentioned, the Frenchman does not shy away from his defensive duties and is one to set the standard for the pressing in the Under-23s.
He is also an unselfish player and wants to create for his teammates, whether he is on or off of the ball. Against Tottenham Hotspur’s Under-23s, for Arnau Puigmal’s second goal, space was created for the Spanish midfielder due to Hannibal pinning back the Spurs centre-back so that he could not cover the space that Puigmal progressed into.
This action was a perfect example of Hannibal’s game-smarts, as well as his pure desire to win and that is something that a Manchester United player needs in order to thrive in the first-team.
A fiery temper that needs to be tamed
Whilst that extra ‘kick’ should not be pushed out of young players, the United staff need to ensure that the French 18-year-old can tame his anger into something that is only positive for him and United.
Sometimes Hannibal is guilty of persistent complaints to the referee’s in the PL2 (usually with good reason), as well as getting into confrontations with opposition. This has seen him receive 14 yellow cards and one red card since joining The Red Devils at the beginning of last season.
If he is able to challenge his passion and anger the correct way, United will not only have a technically superb player on their hands but they will also have one with the bite that the first-team has missed since the departure of United legend, Wayne Rooney.
There is no doubt that Hannibal Mejbri is a extremely talented player and it is likely that he will feature in the first-team in the next year as he could take the Mason Greenwood approach to the first-team, being drip-fed minutes while learning from the experienced players, rather than the loan-route that many other youngsters need to take.