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Axel Tuanzebe has been given a chance at Aston Villa this season, how has he progressed?

Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe has been a figure that many fans of the club are impressed with and will be looking at him to rise from the ranks of the Academy and earn his place at the Old Trafford club. Jose Mourinho praised the now 20-year-old soon after be became the manager in 2016, giving him an opportunity in his first match, the pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic. Since then, Tuanzebe has been a player who has played a small part in matches but a massive part when it comes to his education at the Theatre of Dreams.

Tuanzebe made just three appearances for United this season; 90 minutes against Swansea City in the carabao Cup, a 2-0 victory for United, 18 minutes in the 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League, plus a minute in the 2-0 victory over Everton on New Year’s Day. It may not have been the best season for him, in terms of development and challenging for places in the first team but he has trained with them for half of the season, before being loaned out to Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa, who are chasing a Premier League return.

The United Academy graduate has made five appearances for Villa this season, a combined total of 300 minutes which seems to have been curtailed by injury. 409 minutes of first team action this season is good for progress and during his half-season at Villa Park, Tuanzebe will learn a vital lesson. Villa manager Bruce, a United legend, knows what is expected at United, meaning Tuanzebe is in good hands ahead of the rest of his career, which could see him in the heart of United’s defence for years to come.

During his playing time for both United and Villa this season, Tuanzebe’s stats have been impressive. Defensively, he has offered an average of 2.4 tackles, 0.4 interceptions, 2.7 clearances, and 0.3 blocks per match. His passing averages at 64.2%, which does need to improve. One of the main things is that Tuanzebe can play in a few different positions, as a right-back, a left-back, in the centre of defence and even in defensive midfield. He has played in a few of these positions this season, for both United and Villa.

Tuanzebe holds three impressive strengths, which at his age is good to see. He is great in the air, a good tackler and a good passer, normally. He does have some weaknesses, which is to be expected for a player of his age. He is not great at holding on to the ball, his concentration can be lax, and his crossing has room for improvement. Being developed by United and on loan at Villa should be good for him and Bruce could be the manager to help his potential be reached at both Villa at United. It is suggested he could even remain at the Birmingham club next season.

Playing in the Championship will help him develop more as a player, it is a tough league to play in. Villa have earned a place in the Championship play offs this season, meaning they could reach the Premier League next season, which would be even better for him. It has been reported by The Sun that Mourinho is preparing to loan the 20-year-old out again next season, which would be more beneficial for him than sitting on the sidelines at United, or even playing Premier League 2 football, in Division Two, of course. A Sun source at the club has stated:

“Axel [Tuanzebe] could stay at Aston Villa. It’s not dependent on promotion at all. The club are still undecided but that’s what they’d like him to do. We know Villa are keen on him. He is expected to go on the US pre-season tour before Jose makes his final decision over him.”

It is suggested that a few Premier League and Championship clubs are interested in Tuanzebe ahead of the new season but keeping him at Villa, under Steve Bruce, would be the best option for him. Villa, whether they achieve a Premier League place or remain in the Championship, are a good club to gain experience at and under Bruce, he will be educated about the ‘United way’, which will be a good thing. I don’t think we have heard the end of Tuanzebe, just experienced a taste of his career to come. If he develops correctly, he could be a household name at the club in the future.

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