When Manchester United signed Harry Maguire for £80million (BBC), he was tipped as the missing piece in the defensive jigsaw.
The early signs were good. However, there have been wobbles in recent weeks.
Maguire’s mistakes against Tottenham and Bournemouth led to goals and, while the latter did not affect the result, the former certainly did.
If United miss out on the Champions League by a point or two, being brushed aside so easily in the first game back after lock-down may prove extremely costly.
Football is a game of moments and, for every mistake, the United skipper does plenty more right. However, it is no longer inconceivable to think that he could be dropped when other options are available.
There was a time when Victor Lindelof was seen as the most likely to suffer when Axel Tuanzebe belatedly fulfils his potential.
Unfortunately for the 22-year-old, injuries continue to blight his progress and he will not play again this season.
But he will return and, when he does, it will be interesting to see how United line up.
Who is most at risk?
Lindelof is highly rated by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Despite the presence of Eric Bailly, the Swede has played alongside Maguire even when a rest seemed the most sensible option.
Tuanzebe is seen as one of United’s most exciting defensive prospects in years. If he can put his injury woes behind him, he has the raw potential to become a regular starter at Old Trafford.
Hos loan spell last season proved he is ready. As have his 18 senior appearances for United.
Tuanzebe even captained the team in the League Cup, suggesting he has the same mentality as the man he could soon be pushing for a starting spot.
Lindelof is not without his doubters. And his mistake on Monday evening could prove just as costly as some of Maguire’s.
However, it is no longer the case that Tuanzebe is only challenging Lindelof for a starting role. He is also hot on the heels of Maguire and that should prompt United’s record defensive signing to up his game.
It is testament to Tuanzebe’s talent that he could be seen as a viable alternative to a man who cost a whopping £80million.
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