As rumours continue to circulate about Paul Pogba’s future at the club, Manchester United will no doubt be drawing up contingency plans for how they may look to replace the Frenchman.
The 26-year-old was the subject of intense transfer speculation last summer, with very public comments about he wanted a new challenge and that a question mark remained over his United career. Reports had even suggested the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid were keen on taking him away from Old Trafford for the second time.
And now, it has been suggested Pogba has told his teammates he still wants to make his exit this summer, and as such, it’s vital the Red Devils are prepared for this eventuality. The nature of the beast is that a new big-money signing to replace him will always be the first thought that enters the head. But rather than doing that, the Manchester side may well be better off looking inwards.
In a campaign that has seen the likes of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams burst onto the scene, and make a combined total of 52 appearances for the first-team, United’s youngsters have really been the shining light. And with Pogba potentially going, it could well be the perfect time for Hannibal Mejbri to make his mark over the coming seasons.
The floppy-haired Frenchman only arrived from AS Monaco last summer himself, but has quickly established himself as a key part of United’s youth sides. He has made 14 appearances across all competitions at academy level, and has provided six assists.
Capable of playing in central or attacking midfield, Mejbri has already made a huge impression on several important people.
“Hannibal (Mejbri)’s a leader. The way he plays his football is 100mph, he’s non-stop running up and down. He’s a very, very talented boy but he’s still very immature. He’s still a baby, he’s just 17. He’s not got anything on him just yet, he needs to build up his size and build up his physicality. Talent-wise, he’s got such an immense talent to go on and play at a high level but there’s a long way to go yet.” Nicky Butt, Head of First-Team Development
And despite only being 17, and making the move to a new country at such a young age, he has handled the transition superbly well.
“His performances have been very good, the first objective for any player that arrives from outside of the country is to settle and build relationships and acclimatise, in terms of where are you going to be living, what do you know about your environment. That’s really the only expectation we have on him at the moment in these early phases; it’s just to settle. And he’s doing that nicely.” Nick Cox, Head of Academy
As the likes of Greenwood and Williams have proven, it’s never too early to make your mark. As the saying goes, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Whilst it may be too big of an ask to expect Mejbri to replace Pogba almost immediately if the latter leaves this summer, he could save the club millions by being ready to step up to the plate in another year’s time.
Signing another big-money player would simply stunt and even block Mejbri’s possible progress into being one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. If he continues to develop over these coming months at academy level, then United must surely be looking at him and contemplating whether they forget about potentially looking at a Pogba successor externally, and instead look to promote from within.