Who is Axel Tuanzebe? Manchester United set to start youngster in crunch Arsenal clash

The teen defender is expected to be a surprise inclusion in the first XI at the Emirates

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The Independent Football

Axel Tuanzebe is set to be a surprise starter for Manchester United against Arsenal.

The teenager has captained the club's youth teams and Jose Mourinho is understood to have been impressed by his mentality. But first and foremost he is a technically-sound defender, most comfortable at the heart of a back four but capable of filling in at full-back or defensive midfield. 

Tuanzebe, 19, has was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but moved to the north-west of England as a child and grew up near Rochdale.

His sporting prowess was easy to see as a young boy, competing at a high level in a number of sports but deciding to dedicate himself to football where he captained his school team, St. Cuthbert's, to the national Schools Cup final but he had already piqued the interest of Manchester United's area scouts years before.

By the age of eight he was already informally training with the club's youth programmes, and he progressed through the ranks as a Red.

Former United youth coach Paul McGuinness revealed that Tuanzebe was the first first-year scholar to be picked as a youth team captain since Gary Neville, a role that Axel excelled in.


"Axel did a very good job," said McGuinness after Tuanzebe won the Jimmy Murphy award for United's young player of the year in 2015, "on and off the field." 

In January 2017, Tuanzebe replaced fellow academy graduate Timothy Fosu-Mensah in the FA Cup tie with Wigan to make his first Manchester United appearance. 

Though it was only a four-minute cameo, he would extend his contract with the club days later and Mourinho was convinced of his talents. 

A rash of injuries gave Tuanzebe a chance of starting against Arsenal and his presence of mind, leadership and ability persuaded The Special One to put his faith in a teen who has never made a Premier League appearance. 

Factfile

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Mourinho rates Tuanzebe as one of United's most talented young players (Getty)

Name: Axel Tuanzebe

Birthplace: Bunia, DR Congo

Position: Defender (centre, right)

Date of birth: November 14, 1997

Height: 6ft 1in

Club career: Touted for a loan move, Tuanzebe was promoted to the first team by Louis van Gaal but has made just one FA Cup appearance.

International: England Under-19, Under-20

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