Ahead of the 2019/20 season, there was plenty of chatter about Axel Tuanzebe.
On the back of an impressive loan spell at Aston Villa, Tuanzebe returned to Old Trafford and was expected to compete for a place, and impressed in pre-season matches.
Injuries largely reduced Tuanzebe to a watching brief from the sidelines in 2019/20, while fellow academy graduates Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams enjoyed breakthrough campaigns.
Those injury woes are likely the reason there is far less excitement and discussion around Tuanzebe this summer.
Speaking ahead of United’s trip to Tuanzebe’s former loan club Villa, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the defender is still a few weeks off being ready for a return.
“Axel is getting closer as well. In a few weeks’ time, I guess he will be with us training full-time and hopefully we’ll be able to give him games quickly,” Solskjaer told the club’s official website.
Tuanzebe has the quality to be a genuine first team contender once he’s fully fit.
The man Solskjaer told the BBC was ‘the future of this club’ in July 2019 shouldn’t be forgotten about.
The lack of hype could actually help Tuanzebe. We all know United could do with a central defender, but there isn’t a suitable recruit which looks forthcoming.
We all knew United could do with a left back before Williams broke through; we all knew United needed more up front before Greenwood’s emergence.
That lack of transfer activity and relative lack of pressure or expectation on Tuanzebe to step into the breach will allow him to develop at his own speed this season.
He is already above more experienced options such as Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones in the pecking order, with Chris Smalling’s expected departure also good news for Tuanzebe.
Solskjaer also clearly sees Tuanzebe as a leader, handing him the captain’s armband for the EFL Cup win over Rochdale last season, despite the presence of Paul Pogba on the pitch.
Now it’s down to him to stay clear of injuries and force his way in like Williams and Greenwood. He’s more than capable and the current lack of hype offers the perfect conditions for a breakthrough season free of unrealistic expectations.
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