Manchester United’s various misfortunes have recently opened up space in the first team for Axel Tuanzebe, a 21-year-old former England youth international who has been with the club since he was eight. The centre-back was even handed the captain’s armband for the recent penalty shootout triumph against Rochdale, in what the press have predictably labelled a Paul Pogba snub.
Prior to the Rochdale game, Tuanzebe offered some polite quotes to the Manchester Evening News, in an interview verging on the embarrassingly sycophantic. Notwithstanding the reporter’s evident excitement at being addressed as “sir”, it seems clear that Tuanzebe is a player with his head screwed on. In the interview he speaks of his personal ambition to captain United’s first team (check!) and of his desire to establish himself as Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s first-choice defender:
“The manager tries to pick a side that he believes is best suited to win games. Pre-season, I tried to demonstrate what I was capable of. Harry [Maguire]’s a great player, an experienced player, he comes in and takes number one choice. But, for me, it doesn’t change my task, it doesn’t change my mission, where or what I want to be. And I know it’s a process, I know it can take a long time. I know in time my opportunities will come and when they come it’s really down to me to grasp it and take that first-team role.”
And of the Axel Tuanzebe chant recently adopted by the Stretford End, the man himself added:
“Ah, I think it’s great! It’s catchy! I find myself singing it sometimes! ... It’s very catchy. Very happy to hear the support from the fans. I remember when I heard it the first time in the game and it just boosted me, I had more energy to play! It came on and you think they’re really supporting me, it was just massive, it is massive. It means so much, I don’t think they can really understand how much it means, just in terms of helping me play and perform and boosting me to another level.”
He seems a nice lad; let’s hope he does well.