Manchester United’s draw against Everton was result which felt like a loss.
It was a game United could easily have won 4-0 and yet contrived to draw 3-3.
The third goal was a deflating moment. United led the game with 94 minutes completed and let in a goal in the 95th.
The goal came courtesy of a late free-kick. Everton won the header and Dominic Calvert-Lewin steered it past a hapless David de Gea in goal.
Axel Tuanzebe was partly at fault. He rashly gave away the crucial free-kick. He had only been on the pitch for two minutes, and he had a very clear task to carry out – not to do anything silly and help United see out the game.
With that in mind, Tuanzebe failed in his mission, and United dropped two points.
Racist abuse deplorable
It was disgusting and yet unsurprising to learn Tuanzebe had been subjected to online racist abuse after the game.
Sky Sports reported this is the second time in a fortnight, also following the Sheffield United result, that Tuanzebe has been targeted.
There is no place for racism in society and online media platforms and social networks need to do more to cut it out and create a harsher deterrent.
Even if Tuanzebe was at fault for 100 goals, there is no justification for the abuse he received.
The Mirror’s Darren Lewis told Sky Sports that Tuanzebe has been ‘deeply affected’ by the abuse he has received.
Anxiety and loss of confidence
It is a toxic mix for Tuanzebe. He is clearly experiencing a tough time and this is playing itself out in his performances.
Tuanzebe is playing like he is a bit too desperate to impress, making rash tackles like the one he committed against Everton.
He is United’s third most-booked player this season despite starting only five games.
Tuanzebe has seven yellow cards from 510 minutes of football. Only Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire have more (8) and they have each played more than 2,000 minutes.
A loss of confidence and anxiety leads to bad decision making. The abuse Tuanzebe is receiving puts him in an even more difficult position.
Is Tuanzebe good enough for United?
It’s fine to point out Tuanzebe isn’t doing particularly well at the moment. He was partly at fault for the goal conceded away at Leicester, struggled against Sheffield United, and the away performance against Istanbul Basaksehir saw him hauled off at half-time.
If judging just on those performances then you would say, ‘no’, United need a better centre-back.
But it’s hard to block out his sensational performance away at PSG when he looked like Rio Ferdinand in his pomp. It was a star-making performance which makes it frustrating that he has been unable to kick on.
Tuanzebe was part of a back-three that night, which certainly helped. But you can’t take away how well he played.
Right now is the wrong time to judge him. It’s fine to accept he has not been very good lately, but it’s also right to acknowledge he needs support and not abuse. And there’s no excuse for any ‘supporters’ racially abusing him.
Decisions over his future will be taken at the end of the season, one way or another, also based on his desire for playing time and United’s transfer activity.
Tuanzebe might get to the end of the season and decide he needs to move on for his sake. He quite needs to play regularly and at present he is United’s fourth best centre-back. Weekly football will improve his decision making and lower his anxiety.
Right now Solskjaer is probably afraid to throw him back in for fear of another error, for his sake. Even though an opportunity presents itself against West Ham this week.
At the moment it is a toxic mix for Tuanzebe. United have to try and help him get through this patch mentally, while on the pitch, he needs to try and improve his decision making which has contributed to the high number of bookings he has received.
He’s clearly anxious to improve and impress, and if United can help him with the mental side and give him the support he needs, his on pitch performances should improve. It just isn’t easy with the limited amount of game time he gets. Hopefully, one strong performance could turn everything around.
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