Axel Tuanzebe had his breakthrough season at Old Trafford cut short by injury problems during which he also captained the team once, against Rochdale. He wasn’t fit to play post lock-down after the resumption of football and had to watch from the sidelines as United enjoyed both success and failure during this time – as they claimed a Champions League spot but lost in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Europa League. A hip injury and a hamstring problem twice in the season have hampered his progress and we look what the future holds for him.
1. ONE OF MANY IN THE TEAM…..
Manchester United have way too many defenders and sadly not all of them are not worthy of wearing the United Shirt. Chris Smalling may be on his way out, but the likes of Marcos Rojo (I still believe he is a good defender but he is of no use as he spends 80% of the season on the injury list) and Phil Jones(I gave up on him a long time ago) are still on the wage bill. The only four competent defenders that can be considered are Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe. We have been defensively solid this season but somehow we always manage to concede due to individual defensive errors or lack of ability – case in point the Bergwijn goal against us in the first game post lock-down where Harry Maguire was caught out and Victor Lindelof was not fast enough to block the shot to say nothing of David De Gea letting the ball in – one he would have saved with his eyes closed if it were still 2017!
Axel Tuanzebe is probably the most complete defender in our squad right now. Also an academy graduate, he is strong, likes to play the ball with his feet, composed, has a good passing range and unlike Maguire and Lindelof is pacey enough to stop attackers. He is everything Solskjaer needs in a defender. The only issue is he is very young – only 22 (Defenders usually peak around 26 – 27) and very injury prone. He is also probably the least error prone defender in our squad right now. His only error was against Arsenal and it wasn’t entirely his fault – partly Harry Maguire’s but that was also the game where he impressed due to his solid marking of Aubameyang even when he was playing out of position at LB.
|His stats for a defender are good but has only played 10 games this season.|
2. INJURY CONCERNS
|Tuanzebe has missed 52 games over the past two seasons due to injury..|
3. COMPETITON FOR PLACES
Axel Tuanzebe will need to play at his best if he has to have a long-term future at Manchester United. With the established centre-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof it is unlikely that he will suddenly find himself first choice – with Eric Bailly battling for that role and United looking to buy a new defender notably – Gabriel Magalhes. However even if we don’t sign him, fellow academy graduate Teden Mengi will be vying for game time and will be snapping at Tuanzbebe’s heels should he fail to deliver.
4. ANOTHER LOAN PERHAPS?
It is probably something Solskjaer has considered. If we don’t sign a new defender he should remain at the club and play to impress as there will be plenty of game time for him in the cup competitions and the Champions League. However if we decide to go for a defender like Gabriel Maghales and do not offload Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe could well see himself stifled for game-time being the 5th choice centre back and could do with a loan spell – preferably at Aston Villa where he already knows the players and would probably be first choice and get ample of game time. Brighton and Hove Albion may also be interested in him if their captain Lewis Dunk decides to move on. West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United may also be interested with doubts over the future of Ben White.
|A loan spell would probably do him a lot good as he can prove himself again..|
I have a strong feeling that Axel Tuanzebe will become an important figure for Manchester United in the years to come and in Solskjaer’s words is clearly going to be club captain someday. I want him to succeed but he needs to work on staying injury free. If he does that, he can have in a major role to play in our future endeavors. I feel we should not be targeting a centre back right now but should be looking to ease Tuanzebe into the team and give him minutes.