Axel Tuanzebe handed place in Garth Crooks’ BBC Team of the Week

by Leo Nieboer

Axel Tuanzebe has been handed a place in Garth Crooks’ BBC ‘Team of the Week’ after enjoying a strong Premier League debut against Arsenal on Sunday.

The 19-year-old was handed his first Premier League start by Jose Mourinho at the Emirates after spending months lingering on the periphery of the starting XI.

And he duly took his chance with aplomb, calmly stroking the ball around the pitch and maintaining a firm grip on Alexis Sanchez all afternoon.

Crooks, in response, included the youngster in his ‘Team of the Week’ and was full of praise for the way he went about his business against Arsene Wenger’s side.

“I had never even heard of this lad before this fixture. Making your debut for any team is an ordeal but it’s an entirely different matter when it’s for Manchester United and away at Arsenal.

“What made the occasion even more intense was the amount resting on the match for both teams. Well, what a performance by Axel Tuanzebe. The approach from the 19-year-old was just perfect. He did exactly what his senior professionals in the United line-up told him to do and played everything simple.

“He never once over-complicated the game when in possession and although United lost, Tuanzebe took care of Alexis Sanchez as if he was playing a youth team game and looked a star in the making.

“We’ve already seen Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard come through at United. Where are they getting these kids from? It’s great to see a Premier League club bringing through home-grown talent. I was beginning to think we’d forgotten how.”

There was something about Tuanzebe’s display against Arsenal that reminded me of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson last season: both youngsters took to the field with a visible desire to take extreme care of the basics and let the rest follow.

Implicit in the 19-year-old’s calm expression at the Emirates was a sense of deep-set assurance, almost as if he knew that sticking to a regimented approach would carry him through the game. This was, at least on paper, a baptism of fire for Tuanzebe but the Englishman made it seem like the clash at the Emirates was just business as usual – the hallmark of a promising defender.

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