Man Utd think youngster can ‘reach same level as Rio Ferdinand and Vidic’

Manchester United still think Axel Tuanzebe can 'reach same level as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic'

United may already have the answer to their centre-back issues within their ranks (Pictures: Getty)

Manchester United may not need to raid the transfer market to find a centre-back partner for Harry Maguire, with many at the club reportedly still viewing Axel Tuanzebe as the ideal foil.

The Red Devils shipped two sloppy goals last time out against Bournemouth and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared to say to Nathan Ake that he ‘needed a left-footed centre-back’ after the game.

A new central defender looks to be one of United’s top priorities this summer despite a strong defensive record, with Ake joining Tyrone Mings and Alessio Romagnoli on a three-man shortlist of options.

Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nathan Ake

Solskjaer had a few words for Ake after United beat Bournemouth (Picture: BT Sport)

But despite drawing up a list of possible centre-back targets, The Athletic’s Andy Mitten reports that the need for a new defender could be reduced if Tuanzebe can overcome injury and deliver on his enormous promise.

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The 22-year-old academy product had earmarked this season as one to stake a claim for a first-team place after a successful loan at Aston Villa, but he has been struggling with injuries throughout the campaign.

Tuanzebe has been limited to just two Premier League starts and has not played since the turn of the year, with a hip injury being followed by a serious hamstring problem and Solskjaer does not expect to be able to call upon him until September.

However, in spite of his lack of game time, Tuanzebe is still highly regarded around Old Trafford and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a big fan of the young centre-back.

According to The Athletic’s Talk of the Devils podcast, a number of well-placed people at the club remain convinced that he is going to be ‘absolute top class’ and could even reach the same bracket of quality as United legends Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Axel Tuanzebe during Manchester United Training Session

Tuanzebe has effectively been ruled out for the rest of the 2019/20 campaign (Picture: Getty)

The onus is now on Tuanzebe to deliver on those predictions and this season will go down as a wasted opportunity, with doubts over Victor Lindelof creating an opening that he was unable to capitalise on due to injury.

Should United pursue a new centre-back option this summer to partner Maguire, that door could close completely despite how highly regarded Tuanzebe is.

Elsewhere, United will try to finally offload another defender, Argentine Marcos Rojo, and are even prepared to let him leave on a free transfer just so they can get his enormous salary off the wage bill.

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