Hannibal Mejbri set for two week Manchester United audition
Man Utd are set to give Hannibal Mejbri an extensive look in pre-season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer considers his midfield options
It's always important to err on the side of caution when approaching pre-season matches and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won't be getting carried away after victory on his first outing of the summer.
In the sapping Sunday heat Manchester United showcased their enviable squad depth with victory over Derby County, using 23 players as they strolled to a comfortable 2-1 win.
Tom Heaton and Facundo Pellistri both impressed in first showings for the senior side, though it is hard to get too excited about beating a team which only avoided relegation from the Championship by a single point on the final day of last season.
The same can be said for teenage midfielder Hannibal Mejbri who impressed in his late cameo on the pitch, emulating Jack Grealish with an audacious piece of skill which saw him nutmeg an opponent without touching the ball.
It was the latest sprinkling of gold dust on top of an already stellar show-reel from his time in the U23s - but once again it is hard to get too carried away in the hype for a player who has only played eight minutes of Premier League football.
You only have to look at the first scorer on Sunday, Tahith Chong, to see that reserve team stardom rarely translates to the first-team stage, though others might optimistically point towards Mason Greenwood as proof it can happen.
No matter which bracket the Tunisian teen falls into, the next two weeks should shed light on how far Hannibal has really progressed with the 18-year-old set for an extensive pre-season run-out in the absence of more recognisable midfield maestros.
Donny van de Beek, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes are not expected back in United training until early next week, meaning all three are unlikely to start in the match against Brentford a week on Wednesday. The trio will also miss the trip to QPR this weekend, leaving a gap in the midfield for Hannibal to make his mark before the senior stars build-up minutes ahead of the season opener against Leeds.
Stronger sides should take to the field for the final two friendly matches against Preston and Everton, with returning international stars expected to be involved depending on their own personal schedules following the conclusion of this summer's major tournaments.
Hannibal himself was a late returner to Carrington last week having been granted extra time off at the start of pre-season 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 further appearances against Algeria and Mali a week after.
He'll now be battling Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata for a starting role at Loftus Road this weekend, before hoping to get his first senior action at Old Trafford against Brentford in nine days' time.
If he manages to impress in both of those then he could secure a place as an understudy to Bruno Fernandes for the campaign ahead, though time is well on his side in regards to securing a long-term future at United if the dream scenario does not play out.
In the worst-case scenario, Hannibal will end this summer as the star of the U23s, or even possibly out on loan. In the best case, he could become the latest youngster to earn a permanent promotion to Solskjaer's senior side.