Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to give Axel Tuanzebe the chance to form a partnership with Victor Lindelof

Axel Tuanzebe has been at Manchester United since 2005, coming through the clubs Academy. When he emerged into the U18s during the 2013/14 season, post-Sir Alex Ferguson. Tuanzebe made nine appearances that season; six starts and three appearances from the bench. The following season, the central defender became the captain of the U18s, making 29 appearances, three from the bench, also playing three times for the U23s, albeit from the bench.

During the 2015/16 season, Tuanzebe played twice for the U18s, making most of his appearances for the U23s, seldom playing for the U19s, where he scored his first goal at Academy level. However, Tuanzebe suffered an injury which kept him out for four months and he ended the season at U23 level. During that time, Tuanzebe had seen both David Moyes and Louis van Gaal come and go as the clubs manager and ahead of the 2016/17 season, he would see Jose Mourinho arrive at the club.

Tuanzebe played 25 times for the U23s that season, scoring one goal. This saw him given an opportunity in the first team, making five appearances, one of those from the bench. Mourinho rated the player, letting him play for the first time during the pre-season campaign. The player had little involvement at U23 level during the 2017/18 season and during the January transfer window, the player was loaned to Championship side Aston Villa. He made only five appearances because of injury.

During the 2018/19 season, Tuanzebe was loaned to Aston Villa for the entire season and made a total of 30 appearances, a season which saw the club return to the Premier League once again. The now 21-year-old played in various positions for Villa, including right-back and as a central defender, which is where he ended the season, helping the club to win the Championship play-off final at Wembley, beating Derby County 2-1.

After the season he has just had, Tuanzebe will be, rightly so, seeking information from United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to see if he will be given a chance at the Old Trafford club during the next season. United endured one of the worst defensive seasons at the club last season, conceding 54 goals in the Premier League alone, the most goals they have conceded in the top-flight since the 1978/79 season when they conceded 63 goals in the old First Division.

It was reported in the media in the past week that Tuanzebe was ‘going to hold showdown talks with Solskjaer‘ as he has spent the last 18 months away from the club on loan, in which time he gained some valuable first team experience. The 21-year-old signed a new contract at the club days after making his first team debut back in 2017 and that contract will expire next summer. At his age and the current state of United defence, Tuanzebe should at least be given a chance this season.

With the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who have both recently signed new contracts at the Old Trafford club, both not become the players they were once tipped to be and the fact that Marcos Rojo, despite signing a new contract, has failed to break into the squad, along with the injury-plagued Eric Bailly, a player like Tuanzebe could be a great fit in this United squad, especially alongside Victor Lindelof, who improved leaps and bounds last season.

It would seem likely with the £100 million valuation of Leicester City defender Harry Maguire and the fact the links with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly seem to have disappeared that United will not be signing a central defender this summer. If this is the case, then United, with the likes of Jones, Smalling and Rojo will not become that defensive unit they could become with a commanding leader at the back. Lindelof’s improvement last season keeps his place in the team and if Tuanzebe is given a chance and proves himself, he could be a great defensive partner.

Jones and Smalling can be squad players, rotation options if you will. However, both will need to find a confidence level that suits the team as in the past few years, they have been nowhere near their best. I have personally written both players off years ago but Ed Woodward seemed to reward them with new contracts, despite the fact both could have left the club on a free this weekend. Rojo seems so far out of the starting XI at this time that it might take a miracle for him to feature regularly under Solskjaer, despite the injury he suffered last season.

If Tuanzebe is not given the opportunity under Solskjaer at United this summer, it would go against the whole purpose of the clubs Academy. He is a player who has been highly rated by the likes of Jose Mourinho, Steve Bruce (former Villa manager) and Dean Smith (current Villa manager) and over the past season, has had the liked of John Terry to help him on his way to becoming a great central defender during his career. Ideally, that career needs to be at United. It would be a massive mistake to see his potential wasted and him pulling it out of the bag for another club.

The pre-season tour, which will see United face Perth Glory, Leeds United, Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, Kristiansund, and AC Milan could be a great opportunity for Tuanzebe to find his feet at United and impress the manager ahead of the new season, in which United will start against Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams. If it happened to work for both United and Tuanzebe, it would be considered as money saved in the transfer market with combative central defenders costing a pretty penny at this moment in time. However, United having a player of the ilk of Virgil van Dijk would benefit them too.

With Solskjaer seeking to change the way United have been doing things, which has seemingly been buying ready-made players, many of which have not actually worked at the club which had seen more than £700 million spent with little achievement post-Ferguson. After Daniel James signed for the club, the graphics used had a shield logo, in which said; Youth, Courage, Success. If that motto is to carry some weight, giving Tuanzebe an opportunity to shine is a must rather than something Solskjaer could be doing. However, he and his coaches may feel somewhat different, which could be a mistake.

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