Next Rio Ferdinand takes Manchester United captaincy
Being labelled the next Rio Ferdinand is a big responsibility for any Manchester United player. Regardless of what some people think of his off field persona there’s no doubting that Ferdinand was the most accomplished English defender of his generation. So to have a Manchester United youth player likened to such a United great is some accolade. The question is, is the boy good enough?
Step forward Axel Tuanzebe. Recently promoted to Manchester United U23’s captain, Tuanzebe is highly thought of within Old Trafford and many fans prediction to be the next United youth product to follow Lingard, Rashford and Fosu-Mensah in to the first team. Even Jose Mourinho singled Tuanzebe out for praise after the Wigan preseason preview. Mourinho was asked why Tuanzebe only came on for the last ten minutes of the game, to which he replied “Everyone within the club knows what Tuanzebe can do. Ten minutes is more than enough. He has a great future”.
Being handed the captaincy of what is in effect Manchester United’s reserve team is a huge achievement in itself. At only 18 years of age, Tuanzebe doesn’t turn 19 until next month, he’s one of the youngest in the U23 side. So to be given the captaincy speaks volumes about his leadership skills and personality. Another huge bonus on top of what is already a very talented footballer.
Lightening fast, strong and athletic, and standing tall at 6 foot, Tuanzebe has all the skills in his locker to develop in to a top class United defender. But it’s his reading of the game and ball distribution that draw parallels with Rio Ferdinand. For a defender, Tuanzebe very rarely goes to ground or makes last ditch tackles. This is because, like Rio in his United prime, Axel’s reading of a game is sensational for one so young.
So remember the name. Axel Tuanzebe, United’s next big youth star.
It’s now in the hands of Mourinho and how long he waits to blood Tuanzebe in the first team?
One suspects it will be sooner rather than later. Because for all the fantastic signings United have made recently, none will be more celebrated than a Mourinho Manchester United youth prospect coming through and silencing the critics.
By Mark Goldbridge