Gone are the days when Manchester United fans were bemoaning their lack of quality centre-backs. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have formed a brilliant partnership. While Eric Bailly looks back to his best following some terrible injuries.
A recent new contract for the latter means United should be well-stocked in the heart of their defence for years to come. And that is before you consider the emergence of Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi.
Of United’s next generation, Tuanzebe is tipped to be among the very best. Yet a spell of poorly-timed injuries have robbed him of the chance to impress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
At 22, there is still plenty of time for Tuanzebe to excel. But he needs to put his injury woes behind him.
You only need to look at Phil Jones to see what regular setbacks can do to a player. The now-28-year-old arrived at Old Trafford with the world at his feet. This summer, he looks likely to leave with barely a whimper.
Seize those chances
It would be foolish – and blatantly wrong – to write off Tuanzebe so soon. However, United’s senior centre-backs are growing with every game and their defensive record is testament to that.
When there is a chance to impress, it must be taken, be that when Maguire or Lindelof is injured or in the cups.
Tuanzebe would have likely got a chance against Norwich City in the FA Cup. But a setback just before the season resumed has seen him on the sidelines ever since.
In his most recent press conference, the United boss told the club’s official website that Tuanzebe will be out until September. And that is the last thing either man wanted.
Mengi will be chomping at the bit for an opportunity of his own and, with Tuanzebe unavailable, expect the United teenager to step in with aplomb if called upon.
Hopefully in time, both players will blossom. They certainly have time on their side. Yet, given his hip and ankle injuries earlier this season (and the latest unspecified setback) it is slightly worrying.
A metatarsal injury also robbed the United prospect of three months of last season. Let’s hope this is all soon behind him and he can kick on next season.
He is far too good to spend his early twenties on the sidelines.
At a club like United, seizing any chance that comes your way is vital – just ask Marcus Rashford and Brandon Williams. In 2020/21, when Solskjaer needs another centre-back, Tuanzebe needs to be ready.
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