Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was forced into a bold defensive selection against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes last night.
Shorn of Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire, Solskjaer was always going to have to throw in a central defender who hadn’t played a game so far this season.
He showed immense faith in Axel Tuanzebe, who had not played a game in 2020 before being thrust into action last night.
As part of a back three, Tuanzebe shone in difficult circumstances as United clinched a famous 2-1 win.
Tuanzebe will deservedly get plaudits for his performance, but he was also keen to praise another member of the five-man backline.
Alex Telles was another thrown in cold by Solskjaer but responded with a performance of attacking intent and quality, as well as helping Luke Shaw keep it solid down United’s left.
Tuanzebe told the official United app: “Telles? It was a solid performance; we’re proud of him. He’s a good addition, a good personality and character.
“I’m very much looking forward to working with him.”
Of course it was another academy graduate in Marcus Rashford who netted the winning goal four minutes from time.
Tuanzebe also divulged that he had been on at Rashford throughout the game, telling him he wanted a goal out of him.
The England international duly delivered, netting a crucial Parisian goal for the second time in two years.
“I kept telling him through the game, ‘I want my goal!’,” said Tuanzebe. “He delivered, so I’m just happy for him.”
It was a more complete performance than the smash-and-grab effort in March 2019, underlining how United have progressed since then.
Tuanzebe’s defensive diligence summed up United’s resilience on the night and he looked comfortable in such esteemed company as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
There would appear to be a vacancy at United for a central defender who can establish their fitness, consistency and recovery pace.
Tuanzebe gave a glimpse of his ability to be exactly that, and Solskjaer will hope to see him go from strength to strength as he gets more match fitness.
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