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Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves shower praise on Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe

Solskjaer was pleased with Tuanzebe
Solskjaer was pleased with Tuanzebe's performance
ANALYST
Modified 21 Oct 2020, 23:57 IST
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Former Manchester United stars Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves showered praise on Axel Tuanzebe after his fantastic performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League. The English youngster returned to action after a ten-month hiatus due to injury, replacing the injured Harry Maguire in a back three.

Ahead of the game, United fans were worried that their weakened defense would be slaughtered by the might of the PSG attack. Manchester United’s inability to stop the leak at the back had made the headlines since the start of the new campaign.

The Red Devils had shipped 12 goals in the first 4 games in the Premier League, which also included a 1-6 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. As such, the enforced inclusion of the 22-year-old in place of the injured club skipper made for a nervous fan base. However, all those doubts would wither in a very short time.

Facing the speed and guile of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Angel Di Maria, Tuanzebe managed to surprise everyone and keep a cool head and showed the world why he is so highly rated by Manchester United insiders. A foot race with Mbappe is hardly how the Englishman would have liked to mark his first competitive game in 10 months, but it was immediately clear that Tuanzebe relished the challenge. He never let the Frenchman get past him, was strong with his tackles and his headers, and turned out to be a leader at the back for Manchester United. And his performance caught the eye of former United legend Ferdinand, who singled the Englishman for special praise.

Ferdinand says Tuanzebe has all the qualities that Manchester United are missing in their defense

Tuanzebe was rock solid for Manchester United against PSG
Tuanzebe was rock solid for Manchester United against PSG

Manchester United went ahead on the night through a Bruno Fernandes penalty, before Anthony Martial’s own goal brought the home side back into the game. However, Marcus Rashford scored a late winner to cap another memorable night for the Red Devils in Paris.

Central to the win, though, was a stellar act from Tuanzebe at the heart of the Manchester United defense. The Englishman had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer beaming after the full-time whistle and the Norwegian spoke very highly of his young defender.

Ferdinand soon joined in the praise, pointing out that Tuanzebe had all the qualities that United missed in the team last year.

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This is where United have struggled in the last six to 12 months, chasing players down those channels. They can’t stay with them and it opens up the back four, back three. But here, he was smelling danger.

The former Manchester United No. 5 seemed to indicate that his countryman’s performance warrants a longer run in the first team.

Ole has just said that’s two of the best strikers in the world. He snuffed out danger on many occasions and you have to reward performances like that at a time of injuries. Again, first game in 10 months and to come in and play like that from out the cold you just deserve to be rewarded.

Another former United player Hargreaves echoed Ferdinand’s sentiments, agreeing that Tuanzebe deserved to start for Manchester United.

He’s not getting out of the side. If you’ve got this much athleticism in these positions.

The Red Devils next face Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday, a game where Harry Maguire could return to action. Will Solskjaer partner Tuanzebe with Maguire for the game against the Blues?

Or will the Norwegian prefer to ease the player into the team instead, considering he is only returning from a long-term injury? One thing’s certain, a fit Tuanzebe does have the ability to solve Manchester United’s defensive woes and could be the ideal partner for Maguire in the defense.

Published 21 Oct 2020, 23:57 IST
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