The manager of Manchester United’s Under-23s side, Neil Wood, has told the MEN that wonderkid Hannibal Mejbri needs ‘protection’ from the referees after constant rough treatment from opponents.
Wood stated that it is ‘frustrating’ to see the attacking midfielder suffer from ‘about 15 fouls’ per game, adding that the ‘fear’ is that Mejbri will have his ‘leg broken’ if this treatment isn’t ‘stopped’.
Mejbri arrived from Monaco in the summer of 2019 for an initial fee of €5m, n a deal that could rise to €10m. Wood is pleading for referees to offer the French-Tunisian talent ‘protection’ to avoid injury.
Wood stated that teams ‘love’ to ‘hack’ Mejbri down, with the 18-year-old the kind of talent that likes to be on the ball, before creating opportunities for teammates and himself.
United’s Under-23s boss added that Mejbri is a ‘tough cookie’ who isn’t ‘given’ the ‘credit’ for being so, with the midfielder even playing on with a broken nose in a fixture against Accrington this season.
See More: Video: Hannibal Mejbri and Amad Diallo show some delightful link up play for Man United U23s vs Blackburn
Here’s what Wood, who was a product of United’s academy himself, had to say on the treatment Mejbri faces:
“I think Hannibal has lots of quality and the frustrating point for him is that there must be about 15 fouls on him per game.”
“And at some point if it’s not stopped, or if the referee is not protecting him, he’s going to get his leg broken. That’s what I fear for him.”
“He loves getting on the ball, he loves creating and teams love to hack him down as much as they can. He’s doing really well. He’s been outstanding for the last couple of games. He was outstanding against Liverpool and I thought he was excellent again [against Blackburn].”
“I think what a lot of people don’t realise about Hannibal is that they see him getting fouled, they hear the screams every now and then but he’s a tough cookie.”
“The Accrington game the lad broke his nose in the first 10 minutes and he played the whole game with two stents up his nose, there’s not many players who would do that.”
“He’s a lot tougher than he’s given credit for.”
“I think he’s the type that he wants the ball all the time, he’s not going to shy away from it and that’s what we want, you don’t want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured.”
Mejbri made five appearances at Under-23s level last season, contributing three assists, with those promising displays and a settling in period now seeing the youngster permanently promoted.
The former France Under-17s international has been very impressive this season, scoring four from midfield and providing seven assists, it’s no surprise that he’s set to join first-team training soon.
Mejbri primarily features in an attacking midfield role, but can be deployed as a more traditional central midfielder, he’s shown some serious promise and it would be nice to see the talent at senior level soon.
It’s harsh and disappointing to see that a young talent is being targeted for rough treatment in academy fixtures, but the starlet has dealt well with the fouls so far, which will bode well for the rest of his career.