Axel Tuanzebe has revealed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic told him to “keep it simple” as he prepared for his debut during Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup fourth round.
Jose Mourinho noted during the week that Tuanzebe, a regular presence at Carrington over the last few weeks, was close to receiving a chance to impress in the first team.
And with 68 minutes gone, Tuanzebe replaced the injured Timothy Fosu-Mensah at right back and enjoyed a composed cameo as Mourinho’s men added two more goals.
The 19-year-old, speaking after the game, revealed that Zlatan – on the bench for this game – had handed him some crucial advice prior to coming on.
“I was on the touchline and I can hear Zlatan just saying ‘keep it simple, keep it simple’ so I followed his advice and I was just waiting for my moment and it finally came,” he said.
“It was crazy, you know since I was a little boy I’ve been thinking of this and now it’s come true. I’m over the moon, I’m still shaking now! You just can’t really believe it’s happened but it’s good for me and my family. I’m very proud.
“But now it’s just getting back onto the training ground and going again. If I’m with the Under-23s, it’s with the 23s, I stay humble and work hard to get another opportunity to play again.”
For a youngster about to embark on the biggest moment of his professional life so far, hearing the booming voice of Zlatan from behind you, with a clear message of advice, would be salutary to say the least.
Tuanzebe’s head would have been swarming as he limbered up to replace Fosu-Mensah, but the Swede’s message would have been immensely grounding: take care of the basics and the rest will follow. And so he did, producing a wonderfully composed, powerful performance at right-back as United cruised to victory.