Tue. May 17th, 2022

Manchester United’s decision to give Juan Mata a new contract confused many. When you consider that the Spaniard has only managed one appearance this season, that call looks increasingly bizarre.

Some United fans feel that Ole Gunnar Solskjær, rather than keeping an aging fringe player, should have given Mata a place for a youngster. And few are more deserving than Hannibal Mejbri.

For now, Mata continues to make match days while the teenager settles for U23 football. But that could all change in January.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Mata is considering a potential exit. And his future could be inherently associated with Hannibals.

If the 33-year-old leaves, it could open the way for the first team of the Tunisian international. There would still be a lot of work to do, but Hannibal deserves the spot on the bench that Mata has taken seven times already this season.

Manchester United vs. Brentford - Friendship before the season
(Photo by Daniel Chesterton / Offside / Offside via Getty Images)

Mata’s only start came in the Carabao Cup, and he struggled to make his mark on the defeat. He has missed the last two league games all together and his time at United is coming to an end.

Now is the time to look ahead. That means giving Hannibal the invaluable opportunity to be on the replacement bench in big matches and, when the opportunity allows, a few minutes.

Mata can sign a prior contract agreement and leave next summer. He could be sold for a small fee in January. Either way, Hannibal should be the next in line.

Time for the new guard

There’s a reason United spent millions on him when he was only 16. Hannibal has impressed in first-team training and his time is coming.

The problem is that some people think it should already has come. The 18-year-old would have gotten a lot more out of starting against West Ham in the trophy than Mata did.

It could have been the beginning of something special, not the continuation of a stall.

Mata eventually leaves, as does Nemanja Matic. It frees up space for the next generation.

For now, the Spaniard’s effort work must be carried out on the training ground. He can help United’s teenagers develop and then step aside so they can have important minutes.

United have already seen people like Angel Gomes and Largie Ramazzani leave in the hunt for regular football. Hannibal should stay in the long run, but do not be surprised if Mata’s ultimate exit is crucial to his progress.

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