Manchester United romped to a 3-1 win against Championship Reading in the fourth round of the FA Cup to continue their impressive march towards four trophies under new manager Erik ten Hag this season.
The only blight on the night was an ankle injury to Christian Eriksen, after a horrific two footed lunge from behind by the ogreish Andy Caroll, who would be sent off later for another similarly sickening tackle on Casemiro.
Eriksen was seen hobbling on crutches after the game, and United fans are right to worry about the impact his absence can have on the side during this crucial run of games to come.
If the Danish midfielder faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Ten Hag will have to rely more regularly upon the services of Fred and Scott McTominay, two players with no lack of footballing ability but who do not share Eriksen’s profile on the pitch.
However, should they choose to take it, there may well be an in-house solution available to the Red Devils before the January deadline.
Hannibal Mejbri is having a stellar season at Birmingham City.
The Tunisian International was instrumental in earning his side a fourth-round replay during City’s 2-2 stalemate against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, grabbing the assist for substitute Jordan James’s injury time equaliser, after securing the ball in midfield, skipping past a challenge, and playing a lovely pull-back towards the edge of the area.
Mejbri has been played in a more defensive midfield role than his preferred roaming play-maker position, which has had an impact on his usually excellent passing metrics, with the 20 year old making just 0.9 key passes per game according to Whoscored.
He has still managed to accrue 4 assists in all competitions, which once again demonstrates his innate ability to make a difference in the final third, something he shares in common with Christian Eriksen, who has set up seven goals in his 19 appearances in the league this season.
Hannibal had courted controversy last year, when he found himself in a training ground bust-up with Brazilian full-back Alex Telles in the wake of a humiliating 4-1 loss to Brighton, but he has matured a lot since then, as evidenced by Birmingham Captain Troy Deeney’s words on Ben Foster’s podcast.
Deeney, 34, said: “The Man United boys are always the best ones. I always say this. I don’t know whether it’s the grounding or the Fergie era that’s still around.
“They’re not rude, they’re always on time, they always want to do more and they always want to more. It’s a bit old school, a bit ‘Shut up and do what you’re told’.
“Other clubs, not so much…”
Ankle sprains can take anywhere between five weeks to several months to heal, depending upon the severity of the injury.
Given the Glazer’s reluctance to sanction new signings at the moment, with a sale looming on the horizon, recalling Hannibal from his loan spell may prove to be a shrewd decision for both club and player.
A highly technical player, who is immensely press-resistant, possessing great pace, agility and an excellent work ethic, Mejbri ticks several boxes for Manchester United in midfield.
A recall from loan may just turn out to be the thing they need right now to solve their woes in the middle of the park.