Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri came off the bench at half-time against Athletic Bilbao and made a case why he should stay and not be sent out on loan.
It has a been a mixed pre-season for Hannibal, who has impressed every time he has been on the pitch, against Leeds, Lyon, Wrexham and now Bilbao.
The problem for the midfielder is that these have essentially been United’s B-side friendlies, and he did not play a single minute against Arsenal, Real Madrid, Dortmund or Lens.
This has led to claims he could head out on loan, with Tunisian outlet Noussour TN reporting newly promoted Luton Town are keen.
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Hannibal impresses v Athletic Bilbao
Manchester United introduced Hannibal against Bilbao with the side 1-0 down, replacing a very involved but ultimately ineffective Donny van de Beek, who has had a good pre-season.
Hannibal, 20, was tidy in possession, displaying a calmness on the ball which Erik ten Hag will have appreciated.
The Tunisia international completed 94 per cent of his passes, 17 of 18 in total, helping United to wear down Bilbao in search of an equaliser.
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As so often in the case with Hannibal, his key contribution came in a moment which was not quantifiable by statistics; he made something happen.
His brisk spin away from defender Aitor Paredes resulted in the centre-back hauling him down and receiving a straight red card.
This led to United making a tactical switch, taking off midfielder Dan Gore and adding winger Noam Emeran, putting pressure on Bilbao in search of the equaliser which eventually came.
The moment reflected Hannibal’s always lively contribution whenever he is on the pitch. It’s never dull. There is always something happening around him, and when United were trailing, he provided the spark to get the side back into the game.
To combine that with his measured passing on the ball, will certainly have given Ten Hag something to consider.
Ten Hag has a decision to make
It’s likely, given the games Hannibal has been used in this pre-season, that he will end up being sent out on loan. However, his performance against Bilbao may just have given Ten Hag reason to pause and re-assess.
Donny van de Beek is expected to leave, Amad is due for weeks if not months on the sidelines, and United need a playmaker who can alleviate pressure on Bruno Fernandes.
Of course, Mason Mount and Christian Eriksen can fulfil that role, but Ten Hag could elect to keep Hannibal around as an extra option.
His pre-season performances have been a mix of quality passing, strong pressing and important defensive work. He’s really shown something, and has an X-factor about his game, which means he’s always involved in the thick of the action and can provide a spark to the team, and the crowd.
If he gets a chance for the first team, he could chip in with an important contribution through the season.
A Premier League loan may, alternatively, be better for his development. Ten Hag has to weigh it up, and importantly, decide what is better for Manchester United.