Football

Ex-Manchester United players, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hail Axel Tuanzebe

Former Manchester United players Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves believe Axel Tuanzebe has cemented his first XI spot after his first start in 10 months yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The 22-year-old academy product put in an impressive defensive display to help nullify Kylian Mbappe and Neymar as United earned a surprise 2-1 Champions League Group H win against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.

After stepping up in the absence of injured centre-backs Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly, ex-England midfielder Hargreaves said of Tuanzebe on BT Sport: "Good luck getting this guy out of the team. To be fair, he is a good athlete, he makes good decisions, physically he has a presence, he wasn't fazed by Mbappe or Neymar. I think he grew into the occasion."

His former teammate Ferdinand, meanwhile, highlighted that Tuanzebe's pace and ability to sense and snuff out danger is something United have been sorely missing.

He said on BT Sport: "This is where Man United have struggled in the last six to 12 months, in them areas chasing players down the channels, they can't stay with them and then obviously that opens up the back four or back three. But he was smelling danger.

"He's had a hard time with injuries - first game in 10 months - to come in and play like that, from out of the cold, you deserve to be rewarded."

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer too hailed his young centre-back, saying: "Axel did fantastic, he's been out for 10 months so to put in a performance like this against Neymar and Mbappe almost surprised us as well...

"It's a better performance this time than last, even though last time we won 3-1. I think the performance this time showed we had developed," he added in reference to United's smash-and-grab victory at the Parc des Princes in 2019 that dumped the French side out of the Champions League.

His opposite number Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, said: "I don't know why, but I can just say that it was not our level, in moving the ball, in possession, in counter-attacking, in challenges, in intensity... It was weird, I don't know why.

"By far, one of our worst games, one of our worst first halfs."

Football