Warren Joyce has praised his skipper Axel Tuanzebe, applauding his performances this season and the development he’s shown under the demands of the captaincy. Tuanzebe has shown imperious form for Manchester United Reserves during this campaign, displaying a maturity and quality beyond his years. Despite his tender age, the 18-year-old has now begun producing the same form on the international stage for the England Under-20 side.
Although primarily a central defender, the Congolese-born teenager was deployed in a defensive midfield position for England as they comfortably and impressively beat the Netherlands 2-0 on Wednesday, as well as coming off the bench against Germany on Friday in a 3-1 win. Two appearances in three days only served to highlight the talent and the character of the young man, a player Joyce cannot speak more highly of. Joyce, who chose Tuanzebe as his captain in the summer following James Weir’s move to Hull City, spoke to ManUtd.com about his progression at youth level;
“I think Axel really epitomises the traits we’ve had from all our captains.
“We could have had one of the older ones as captain who might then possibly go out on loan, so it’s better to have one who’s staying in the group. Axel’s only young and the captaincy puts demands on him. But it’s helped develop him as a person as well.”
The armband has yet to weigh too heavily on Tuanzebe, who has relished the role. The young man has been a composed and dominant defender throughout each and every performance. It is his speed, composure on the ball and intelligence both in and out of possession that excites and enthuses regular followers of United’s reserves.
Such has been his form, Tuanzebe was invited to train with Manchester United’s first team last month, alongside Ro-Shaun Williams and Matty Willock, and Jose Mourinho is a keen admirer of the defender. Tuanzebe was involved in the first friendly of the summer against Wigan Athletic, and Mourinho is evidently tracking the player’s progress so far this season.
After that match against Wigan, Mourinho only had positive things to say about Tuanzebe’s ability at such a young age;
“You can play 90 minutes or one minute. Sometimes one minute is enough.
“With Axel, ten minutes is enough! The potential is there, you see it immediately.
“You know him better than me because you know him for a few years but if anyone sees him for the first time, ten minutes is enough to see the potential.”
There is no doubt Warren Joyce took a risk in selecting Axel Tuanzebe as his captain. To place such responsibility and expectation on someone so young will always be a risk. His level of performance has been exemplary, though, so much so that he has progressed even further and trained with the first team as well as earning a call-up for his country. It is also clear that he’s caught the eye of the manager and impressed Jose Mourinho on more than one occasion. How long now until we see him make his professional debut?