The Manchester United academy is a conveyor belt of talent, from the likes to Bobby Charlot in yesteryears to the famous class of 92 in recent times, they have had one of the best pros to have come out in England. The latest in the list is a highly rated ball playing defender in Axel Tuanzebe.
Tuanzebe, a Manchester United fan, was in line for one of the first to break into the first team under Louis van Gaal last season, but injuries curtailed his development. He was named in the squad playing West Brom on 7th November 2015, in which fellow academy starlet Cameron Borthwick-Jackson came on a solidified his position in the first team.
Since then the likes of Rashford and Fosu-Mensah got into the first team (and boy have they made an impression) and have grabbed their chances with both hands. The U-18 and FA Youth Cup captain had to bide his time and wait for the opportunity to arrive, and in the 'ten minutes' at Wigan, it appears he has made exactly the impression expected of him as he broke through the ranks at United.
Born in Congo, but brought up in an ear shot from Manchester, Rochdale, the U-19 England international is essentially a localite. He was involved in the youth structure at Manchester United since the age of 8, and then went on to win the Milk Cup with United youth sides in the year of 2013 and 2014.
He also captained a very talented United team at the FA Youth Cup in the year 2015, and his performances went on to earn him the Jimmy Murphy Player of the year, presented to youngsters who do extraordinarily well in the U-18 age group, following in the footsteps of the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Wes Brown, Phil Neville and Danny Welbeck.
His ability to read the game is his biggest strength, add to that the fact he is athletic, good on the ball and fast makes him a perfect recipe for a defender. Putting aside the comparisons with a certain Rio Ferdinand, he hardly makes last-ditch challenges, preventing the catastrophe rather than react to it.
Technical aspects aside, he also has a very mature head on his shoulders, which led him to be awarded captaincy of the United U-18 squad even though he was just a first-year scholar.
Former youth team coach Paul McGuinness explained why he chose Axel as the captain, he said "Axel's led the team superbly throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, you've got to make a choice as captain and that is difficult. You've got to think about what's best for all the players and who will it benefit most. "
"I made a choice I'd not made before - I made a first-year player my captain and the reason I did it was because has outstanding potential as a leader. I thought I'd give him as much practice as he could get. That's what we've done this year and he's not let us down." he said, and then went on to add "I don't think that has happened since Gary Neville"
That explains how highly he is thought of in the United academy. A lot of players though don't welcome the kind of responsibility at such a young age, but Axel is made of a different piece of cloth "I enjoy being captain, most definitely, because you get to boss the other players around!" he said with his tongue firmly in cheek.
It is very difficult to gauge the weaknesses of a youngster especially when he hasn't played a lot of first-team football. His biggest weakness when he does make the transition will definitely be his slight physique, but it will be criminal to expect an 18-year-od to be build like Vincent Kompany.
His game is also built around reading the situation, or using his pace to diffuse a situation, so his tackling skills aren't the best. For, a central defender to be playing in one of the fastest leagues in the world, last ditch tackling has to be in his breakfast meal.
"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." - The man that matters (Jose Mourinho)
He has a bright future in front him that is a certainty, whether it is at Manchester United or not remains to be seen. He is most likely going to be sent on loan to a Championship club to gain some much-needed experience, with the likes of Bailly, Smalling, Jones, McNair and Fosu Mensah all capable of playing in his position.
A young player's breakthrough depends a lot on luck, while the likes of Pogba, Drinkwater or Michael Keane never got their chance at United, Blackett and Weir have made appearances in the first team. His talent deserves it, and here we rest our case Mr. Mourniho.Published 19 Jul 2016, 20:57 IST