There are only seven days left of the transfer window and they’re probably going to be quiet for Manchester United.
While there has been an upturn in performances and results over the past week with victories over Brentford and West Ham, it’s still clear that United could use reinforcements in midfield.
Although David Moyes once again failed to win at Old Trafford as a visiting manager on Saturday, Declan Rice put in an excellent display as he continues to grow into one of the Premier League’s finest midfielders.
United are long-term admirers of the England international and he would solve many of their problems in the middle of the park.
But with a bloated squad that can’t be reduced and January always a difficult market to negotiate in, it’s looking increasingly likely that deadline day will come and go without Ralf Rangnick recruiting any new players.
Instead, United are preparing for the coming summer to finally rectify an issue that has hampered the team for a number of seasons now, with it understood United accept midfield is their ”biggest problem.”
It’s a shame Rangnick won’t be able to put his own spin on the side before he moves upstairs into a consultancy role in the summer.
The interim manager has struggled to get a regular tune out of his team in his first few weeks in charge, with the midfield being a particular problem, due to a lack of options.
The aging Nemanja Matic can’t start more than one game at a week and play well, Donny van de Beek remains unfancied, which leaves Scott McTominay and Fred as his preferred duo.
The pair have had great individual moments and performances this season — and have played much better following the switch to a 4-3-3 formation of late — but both have been inconsistent and a lack of technical ability often leaves United’s build-up play stunted .
A dynamic midfielder able to carry the ball and pass it forwards would be a welcome edition and though one might not be signed. Rangnick will shortly be able to welcome one into his squad after all.
Hannibal Mejbri hasn’t had the chance to work much with United’s new boss just yet.
The highly-rated prospect was away representing Tunisia in the Arab Cup when Rangnick arrived at the club and remained away until after December 18 as his country made it to the final, which they eventually lost in extra-time to Algeria.
Representing his country in a major competition is a great experience that will help him in his development but it meant Rangnick missed the chance to run the rule over him in the Champions League dead rubber against Young Boys.
Hannibal returned to training for his first session under Rangnick towards the end of December but wasn’t able to stay long before he jetted off again, this time as Tunisia competed in the African Cup of Nations. Tunisia are once again doing brilliantly and defeated one of the favorites in Nigeria on Sunday to advance to the quarter-finals.
It’s yet more invaluable experience, even if he has only made two appearances so far, but his eventual return can’t come soon enough. Rangnick has already confirmed that he will be a part of the first-team squad once he is back in Manchester.
“We had 25 players in on Thursday and the only one missing was Paul Pogba,” he told club media in December.
“Hannibal was here training for the first time since I arrived, having just come back from the Arab Cup.
“Unfortunately for us and for him he will be missing out again in January because of the Africa Cup of Nations.
“I watched the final before his substitution and I’m fully aware that we have another good, highly-talented player coming from our youth ranks and hopefully after the Africa Cup of Nations he can regularly train and be part of our group.”
Rangnick has already proven with his use of Anthony Elanga that if young players can show they’re good enough, he will throw them right into the team and trust them to perform — even picking them ahead of £73million signings in Elanga’s case.
Hannibal has displayed whenever given a chance, for club and country, that he has a wonderful touch on the ball, a keen eye for a pass and can offer a bit of creative ingenuity that has been lacking in the middle. Some guile and spontaneity.
His senior experience at international level and playing amid the pressure of knock-out competition, will have only made him more ready.
The 19-year-old remains young and his aggressive nature, which has seen him booked 15 times and sent off twice for the youth teams, could be exploited at the highest level but, in lieu of any signings, he could be the midfield spark United needs.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.