A superb first-half performance was enough for Manchester United’s under-23s at the Bet365 Stadium. Two second-half goals from Stoke City made it the closing stages difficult but United pulled through.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe both dropped down into the side as they continue their returns from injury. How did they fare?

Axel Tuanzebe has a tough night but saves United at the end

A vital goalline clearance in the final minute deserves credit but Tuanzebe’s performance was disappointing and underwhelming.

His decision-making was off all night. Once United’s electric attack had quietened down in the second half, the defence was exposed by a resurgent Stoke. Tuanzebe didn’t look at his best.

He stepped up and out of defence unnecessarily, leaving space behind. In the first half, United got away with it as Stoke saw three goals disallowed for offside. Only two were the right decision.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Nemanja Matic and Axel Tuanzebe of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on February 19, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
(Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

After half-time, Stoke capitalised on an out-of-sorts backline. Tuanzebe should have been leading it but he’ll need another game in the under-23s before he comes back into the first team starting line-up.


Unlike Harry Maguire against Everton at the weekend, Tuanzebe struggled in the air on Monday night. Stoke’s first goal was a free header that Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah conspired to allow. It wasn’t the only time the pair performed poorly in that regard.

It’s not to say that Tuanzebe shouldn’t come back into the first team. He absolutely should and the quality he showed earlier this season if enough to see that. But he’ll need some more minutes at this level to find his feet again after a long time out with injury.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah is settling back down

Fosu-Mensah has played in a couple of positions since coming back from a bad knee injury. He hadn’t played since last April but has now featured in midfield and defence for the under-23s.

At right-back on Monday night, he combined well with Tahith Chong in the first half. Fosu-Mensah looked quick and powerful down the right side. His first cross of the day was poor and found no one but his second was the assist, though it took a slight deflection, for Angel Gomes’ goal. It was a good run from Fosu-Mensah.

MALAGA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah of Manchester United in action during first team training session on February 11, 2020 in Malaga, Spain.
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Like Tuanzebe, and as aforementioned, Fosu-Mensah was guilty of letting Stoke dominate the match aerially. That’s an area that both need to work on.

In terms of fitness, it was a 90-minute run-out for both of them in a competitive and hard-fought match. Both are training with the first team and should soon be ready to be brought back into the fold.

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