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Friday, September 29, 2023

Ten Hag must unleash ‘phenomenal’ academy star alongside Garnacho

Manchester United’s poor start to the 2023/24 Premier League season continued over weekend with a 3-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford.

If Erik ten Hag was feeling the heat before the international break, this result will surely have piled even more pressure on the Dutchman ahead of their Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

This tie comes at precisely the wrong time for United as yet another loss could be catastrophic for the former Ajax boss, and he may well change some of his starting XI from the loss against the Seagulls.

What is Man United’s record against Bayern Munich?

The two teams have endured contrasting starts to their respective campaigns. Bayern have won three of their four Bundesliga ties so far and are currently level on points with Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the table.

United, on the other hand, have won just two of their first five league games, sitting in 13th position in the table and it’s evident who is entering the tasty clash in better form.

Indeed, since that dramatic Champions League final in 1999, where United scored twice during injury time to claim the trophy, the club have defeated Bayern only once in the competition – a 3-2 win in the 2010 quarter-final home leg.

Could Ten Hag vary up his starting XI and include a few academy starlets? Step forward Hannibal Mejbri.

Will Hannibal Mejbri start against Bayern Munich?

Alejandro Garnacho has played a part in four of United’s five league fixtures so far this term and with Jadon Sancho and Antony still absent, he could certainly come into the side and make an impression.


The 19-year-old looked like he had netted the winner against Arsenal a few weeks ago, however, it was ruled offside. Such a clinical finish means there is certainly no doubting his abilities on the wing.

Hannibal is another academy product who looks like he could go on to have a positive career at the club. The youngster spent last season on loan at Birmingham City, making 38 appearances while grabbing five assists along with creating six big chances.

This senior experience will have done him the world of good, and it now looks like he is ready for the challenge of first-team football at United.

Lauded as “phenomenal” by Birmingham boss John Eustace last year, the Tunisian came off the bench against Brighton to make his first appearance of the season, and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

During his 26 minutes on the pitch, the 20-year-old not only scored, but also completed 100% of his passes, succeeded with his only dribble attempt, made one tackle and won four out of his seven ground duels.

With the majority of the United team looking lost, Mejbri came on and showcased his abilities and this could give Ten Hag some food for thought, especially with a plethora of fixtures to come in the next few weeks.

Garnacho will likely play a part in these ties, but after his impressive cameo, the young Tunisian sensation certainly deserves some more minutes too. Should he be named in the XI, it would incredibly be just his second start for the club.

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