Speaking to Le Parisien, 16-year-old Manchester United central midfielder Hannibal Mejbri discussed his landmark €10m move from AS Monaco.
How do you feel after signing for one of the biggest clubs in the world?
It is an honour. Manchester United have a great history and are reputed for the way they develop young talent. It will allow me to progress to try to play one day with the biggest and the best. I have watched a lot of videos from the past. Huge names have worn the Manchester United shirt, it is an honour to come after them.
Which Manchester United players have particularly meant something to you?
There is of course Pogba. In terms of the older ones, Ronaldo, Beckham and Cantona. When I went to Manchester, all that people would talk to me about was him. Over there, he is considered a king, whilst in France, he does not possess the same aura.
Are you not concerned to be leaving for England at the age of 16?
No, it does not scare me. My parents will always be by my side to accompany me. On the pitch, you just have to speak football. And off of it, there is the language, but that I will just have to learn. Their accent is a bit difficult, but I have started well in English so it should be fine. I will also have to get used to the climate. But we feel that Manchester is a town that eats and breathes football, it is lovely.
At Manchester you are going to run into several other French guys…
Yes, as we share the same training facilities and the gym as the 1st team, I am going to often be able to rub shoulders with Pogba and Martial. With the youth team, there is also Noam Emeran. We were together at Clairefontaine. I spoke to him on the phone, he told me: “It is really great here, come!” His presence is going to help me to integrate quicker. Aliou Traoré (ex-PSG) has also been here for two years, he will be able to share his experiences with me and advise me.
You have signed a 5-year deal. How quickly do you want to be able to play in the Premier League?
Initially, I am going to join up with the U18s. If I am able to get into the 1st team in two years time, that would be great. Aside from that, everything depends on me. Physically, I am going to have to improve somewhat. I do not yet know how my body is going to evolve. If I have to turn my attention to that side of things, I will, but without losing my technical ability and my on-pitch vision.
The last few months have been difficult for you with the conflict that your family had with Monaco. How did you experience all that?
It was a bit stressful. So it was relief to be able to think about football again. My last match was in April with the French national team at the Montaigu tournament. I have missed it. But from a football level, things were going well at Monaco. The coach Sebastien Squillaci was happy with me, I had my friends. I could have used the situation as an excuse. But I continued to give my all on the pitch. I would play my matches and I left my dad to deal with everything off of the pitch. He said to me, leave everything else to one side, I am here to deal with it.
At 16, is it not tough to read so many criticisms of you and your family?
Yes, it is a difficult weight to carry. It is sometimes annoying to receive insulting messages. But I try to put that all to one side and concentrate on the future. At a certain point, what other people think, what they say about you, you don’t care. I am not playing for them, but to improve. I learned not to react in the heat of the moment, to put your phone to one side and to be able to re-focus on yourself. I have friends who help me forget about all that. My family is there too so that I keep my head on my shoulders.
After your conflict with Monaco and your departure for abroad, what image do you think you have left (in France)?
I think that I have left a good image in the minds of the coaches, those who know football and really know what happened. Everyone who has coached me or watched me play have seen that even if I could be aggressive or annoyed on the pitch, I was calm off of it. It is those who do not know me who speak the most. But I can put myself in their position, it is normal, they do not know everything, who I really am. As they hide behind their telephone, it is much easier… But even if they are bad, criticisms help you to move forward.