The on loan Manchester United defender is cutting his teeth at Aston Villa for the second consecutive season, hoping to break into the United first-team upon his return and show why he has the potential to be the centre-back that United boss Jose Mourinho is looking for. The England under 21 international has claimed a regular spot in the Villa back four over the past 8 months in his two loan spells, and he is showing why Jose Mourinho holds him in high regard and proving he does have the ability to be a United defender.
At the start of the season a lot of the Old Trafford faithful believed Tuanzebe could be part of the upcoming squad for the Red Devils and be given the opportunities to play, so when it was confirmed in August that he was going out on loan to Aston Villa again to play under then ex-United player Steve Bruce, there was much disappointment for United supporters. Axel Tuanzebe is regarded by many to be the most exciting prospect on the United books.
The 20-year old who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came over to England at the age of 7, was brought up in Rochdale after joining the Red Devils’ academy at the age of 8. He has gone on to make eight senior appearances for Manchester United and impressing many in the limited opportunities that he has had. The 2017/18 season was very tough for Tuanzebe, from the start of the season to January he had limited game time at United and then he made his move to Aston Villa until the end of the season but he was only able to make a handful of appearances due to injuries.
This season has been a complete change for the young man. He has joined the midlands club for the full campaign and has started impressively well. Tuanzebe has played 1,085 minutes out of a possible 1,350 minutes in the Championship so far, and this will be pleasing to Jose Mourinho knowing that he is getting the game time needed to establish himself.
The England under 21 is known for his versatility, being able to play both centre-back and right-back and has recently said this about his positions, ‘Centre-back is my natural position, it’s where I played for a long time. I feel more comfortable there’. He added ‘I’m sure there’s more to come, we’re still going through a phase of change and I’m sure when we fully cement that change you will see the best of me’.
The first couple of months were both rocky for him and the club. Villa wasn’t picking up great results and Tuanzebe was being switched from both full-back to centre-back, and then came the sacking of Steve Bruce where questions may have been asked would Tuanzebe play as much now. However then came the appointment of Dean Smith and with that was bringing the appointment of ex-Chelsea and England captain John Terry, a player that played under Mourinho and knows exactly what he wants from his centre-backs. This was only a positive for the United man, an ex-player who could help him progressive his defending further.
According to the man himself, he believes Dean Smith’s playing style as also helped him ‘”You can see from his past clubs how they play football, we’re building out from the back, we take more time in creating chances, it’s not as direct as we used to be’. The United man added “I’ve enjoyed his training sessions, his methods of play, it suits my type of play, it’s the type of play we have back at United. It’s all beneficial for me to carry it on from here back into my home club”.
Finally, Friday’s game against Bolton saw Axel have his best performance yet in the claret shirt and the Villa faithful showed how impressed they were with their comments afterwards. This will be music to the ears of Jose Mourinho and the Old Trafford supporters, knowing they have a potential centre-back at the club who has all the capabilities to be a United great.