Axel Tuanzebe entered this season looking to bounce back from injury and show he can be a key player for the club.
He did the first part, returning with a heroic performance away to PSG, which showed just how good he can be.
Since then it has been a real disappointment, and Tuanzebe remains an enigma as far as United are concerned.
It may be, that he is simply not good enough. His performances in key defeats against Istanbul Basaksehir and Sheffield United suggested as such.
But this would be a harsh view to take, considering what he showed in Paris, when he put in a performance Rio Ferdinand would have been proud of.
So what is the problem for Tuanzebe? Well, defenders need consistency, and the only consistency he is getting, is a solid run of games on the sidelines.
Tuanzebe has played just 132 minutes of Premier League action this season.
Nobody can play their best football when given such limited opportunities to impress. Ask Donny van de Beek.
So what we have got when we have seen Tuanzebe is a defender who looks nervous, and anxious to impress.
Despite making only five starts in all competitions this season, Tuanzebe has racked up seven yellow cards.
Something has to change
Tuanzebe won’t be satisfied with how the season has gone. His dream scenario would have been establishing himself in the United team alongside Harry Maguire, and getting picked for Euro 2021. He’s not even in the international conversation at present.
He won’t be happy with his lack of football, which essentially boils down to him being fourth choice, behind Maguire, Victor Lindelof, and Eric Bailly.
United have not played a three-man defence for months either, further limiting his chances to play.
One thing which may change this season, aside from injuries, is Eric Bailly’s ongoing contract wrangle, with SkySports reporting he is unhappy and could be sold this summer.
United may look to give Tuanzebe increased opportunities at Bailly’s expense between now and the end of the season, if it looks likely the Ivorian will be sold.
This allows United to take a closer look at Tuanzebe, and keeps Bailly away from injury ahead of a summer sale.
United are widely reported to be looking at adding a new centre-back, with the Mirror claiming it is a priority. This will push Tuanzebe further down the list.
He needs to decide whether he is happy being a back-up and waiting for a chance, or wants change.
If he wants to change the situation, then it is in Tuanzebe’s interests to either leave on loan, or permanently.
It would make more sense for United to loan him out, to attract suitors and get a bigger fee the following year, or bring him back into the fold.
Tuanzebe is 23 and can’t afford another season like this one, especially after losing so much time to injury last year.
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