Thursday 27 July 2017

Who is Axel Tuanzebe? Manchester United's young defender who could feature at Burnley

Axel Tuanzebe at Carrington
Axel Tuanzebe at Carrington

Dan Zeqiri

Jose Mourinho has a much maligned youth development record but injuries could force the Manchester United manager to call upon 19-year-old defender Axel Tuanzebe.

Marcus Rojo limped off during Thursday's win over Anderlecht with a knee problem, England pair Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are also nursing knocks which leaves Eric Bailly as United's only fit centre half.

Mourinho revealed he would have considered Tuanzebe on Thursday had United been in a more comfortable position in the tie, but the rangy youngster could now be thrust into first-team action at Burnley.

What do we know about this latest Carrington prospect?

Player history

Tuanzebe was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but has represented England representative honours up to Under-19 level.

Former United youth coach Paul McGuiness made Tuanzebe youth team captain, with Gary Neville the last first-year scholar to be given the armband.

Louis van Gaal named him on the bench for United's league games against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth last season before Mourinho handed him his full debut against Wigan in the FA Cup fourth-round.

The good news for United fans is that he his first professional contract lasts until 2020.

Player profile

Tuanzebe's long-term future lies as a central defender, but like many youngsters he has been moved around the field to aid his development.

There has been the odd appearance as a defensive midfielder, while Mourinho used him at right-back against Wigan when he replaced Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

The most striking thing about Tuanzebe, even after a cursory glance at his YouTube highlights reel, is how comfortable he is in possession. Footage from his days in younger age groups shows him striding past opponents with ridiculous ease.

This technical assurance is matched by plenty of self-confidence, with the player himself admitting he 'likes bossing people around' and being a leader.

Combine that with his natural speed and agility and it is not hard to see why those in United circles are optimistic about his chances of making the grade at Old Trafford.

Telegraph.co.uk

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