This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Having been a cornerstone of Aston Villa’s promotion from the Championship last season, Axel Tuanzebe may have hoped for a more prominent role at Manchester United. After all, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had publicly proclaimed that he would be giving chances for the youngsters to shine at Old Trafford.
Instead, Tuanzebe has had to be content with a place on the side-lines, making just five appearances in total this year. But his last couple of performances in the Premier League in particular, against both Arsenal and Newcastle respectively, shows the 21-year-old is more than comfortable with making the step-up to the first-team.
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Against Unai Emery’s side at Old Trafford, the 6 foot 1 man was handed the surprise task of operating at left-back, despite the likes of Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo being in the squad. If the visitors thought their £72m star Nicolas Pepe could wreak havoc and teach the academy youngster a lesson, then they were sadly mistaken. Tuanzebe rose to the challenge of dealing with the tricky Ivorian and more than held his own.
Whilst he may have received criticism from some sections of the United support for his mistake for Arsenal’s equaliser, the England U21 international made three interceptions, one tackle and boasted an impressive 86% pass accuracy – all from a position that was largely unfamiliar to him.
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Then, in the clash against Newcastle, Tuanzebe looked at ease both in the centre-back position, and then at right-back towards the closing stages of the game. He made two interceptions, one tackle and again kept his pass accuracy high at 89%.
Victor Lindelof and big-money summer signing Harry Maguire may have been Solskjaer’s preferred options at centre-back this season, but Tuanzebe’s form must be rewarded. The United boss has been vocal about wanting to give opportunities to those who deserve it, and it would be completely going against his word for him to drop the academy product now.
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Tuanzebe has shown his commitment to the cause by playing across the entire back-four, and now it’s time for Solskjaer to show similar faith in the 21-year-old too.
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