Hearts may need to wait until August to discover if Manchester United defender Demetri Mitchell can return to Tynecastle for next season.
Mitchell is fit for action on Sunday when Celtic visit Gorgie. He has not played since February due to a torn meniscus. Levein is pleased to have him available for the final three league games but wants to negotiate another loan deal to bring him back for next season.
Everything hinges on United and whether they want Mitchell involved during their two-week summer tour of America, which kicks off on July 19 in Arizona.
“United have been great,” said Levein. “We have provided real football for Demi, which has meant sometimes playing when he’s had niggles. Sometimes in the academies they get wrapped in cotton wool a bit. The loan is good for getting experience of normal football situations.
“I would like to try and get him back next year. I’ve spoken to United about it. They have a lot of players at the World Cup, plus they have a tour in America. They might need players for that. Their manager might want a look at him. The difficulty with all of the on-loan players is getting to a position where we can get all three parties to agree on something.
“We’ve enjoyed having him, we want to keep him and he wants to stay. Man United are the ones who hold his registration so they have to want what we want. It might be that they need time to assess the situation, which I completely understand.”
Mitchell, 21, joined Hearts on loan in January and impressed in nine appearances before injury struck. He explained why he is open to the prospect of returning after the summer.
“Coming to Scotland, you are going to get game time,” he said. “I’m pals with the likes of Matthew Willock at St Johnstone and Sean Goss at Rangers and they are doing the same. It’s definitely a good option for players down south. When you are 20, 21, game time is the most important thing.
“I will speak to Man Utd and they’ll discuss what the best option is for me. There’s nothing to make me think I wouldn’t come back to Scotland. Everyone has embraced me here, the fans and the staff, Edinburgh’s a nice city. There’s nothing to put me off coming back.”
He was back at Old Trafford earlier this week to receive the award of Reserve Team Player of the Year.
“I heard it was 90 per cent likely so it was worth the trip,” he smiled. “It means a lot to me when you consider the names that are on the shield. It means a lot to have my name up there along with the likes of Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs.
“It’s nice to win any award but it doesn’t mean it’s black and white you’ll go on to do great things. You still need to work hard but this is icing on the cake. It’s good for them to select me and for the fans to vote for me was a special feeling.”
United have made the effort to monitor Mitchell closely since he headed north. He feels more mature as a footballer and a person for the experience. He also has the benefit of getting advice from an internationally renowned manager in Jose Mourinho.
“I speak to the guys who look after the loan players and when I go down there the manager has spoken to me a few times. Nicky Butt asks me how things are going. They are very good at keeping track.
“The manager [Mourinho] has told me it’s good to go out and play men’s football. It’s important in terms of your development and that’s something I’ve learned here. I know how much it means to be playing for points in front of fans in a league that really matters.
“There’s not much of a drastic change in terms of the football. But when you are playing in front of the fans you can really feel them. If things are not going we’ll you can feel it and likewise when it’s going well. You get a bit more abuse if it’s going not so well.
“I think I’ve grown up as a person. I’ve lived on my own and on the pitch I’ve came on as a left-back. In my first game I was quite nervous but before I got injured I felt much more confident.
“I picked up the injury against Ross County and didn’t realise I’d done anything. My knee was a bit swollen but I played another two games against Rangers and Kilmarnock before I ended up out. Injuries happen in football and you just have to get on with it.”