Football

Rio Ferdinand details why Axel Tuanzebe will now be first-choice at Man Utd


Rio Ferdinand believes Axel Tuanzebe should now be a first-choice pick for Manchester United after the defender’s brilliant performance against Paris-Saint Germain.

Tuanzebe excelled against one of the world’s best strikeforces as United opened their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win at the Parc des Princes.

The 22-year-old last featured for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in December last year when he played against Colchester in the Carabao Cup.

But playing in a new-look back three on Tuesday, he got the better of Kylian Mbappe, matching the rapid PSG striker for pace in two duels and putting in one superb challenge in particular to deny the World Cup winner.

United have struggled defensively this season, with Harry Maguire having been below par for the opening games, while the role alongside him in central defence has been up for grabs between Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.

Axel Tuanzebe puts in an excellent challenge on Kylian Mbappe

And Red Devils legend Ferdinand reckons Solskjaer should stick with Tuanzebe’s pace, athleticism and awareness – especially with Maguire and Bailly currently injured.

“This is where United have struggled in the last six to 12 months, chasing players down those channels,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.

“They can’t stay with them and it opens up the back four, back three. But here, he was smelling danger.

“Ole has just said that’s two of the best strikers in the world. He snuffed out danger on many occasions and you have to reward performances like that at a time of injuries.

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Rio Ferdinand says Tuanzebe gives United something they have been lacking in defence

“Again, first game in 10 months and to come in and play like that from out the cold you just deserve to be rewarded.”

Owen Hargreaves agreed, saying Tuanzebe had showed his worth by winning his battles with Mbappe.

“He’s not getting out of the side – if you’ve got this much athleticism in these positions,” said the former United midfielder.

Goalkeeper David de Gea also praised Tuanzebe, saying the centre-half’s performance showed United had found a player for the big games.

Tuanzebe matched Mbappe for pace and athleticism on more than one occasion

That could be useful, with games against Chelsea, RB Leipzig, Arsenal and Everton coming up before the next international break.

“He has been unbelievable today,” De Gea told MUTV.

“He played against two of the best players in the world in Neymar and Mbappe so he did really, really well. I am really happy for him.

“He has been in difficult moments with the injuries but now he has shown today that he is capable of playing in big games.”

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