Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reserved special praise for home-grown centre-back Axel Tuanzebe following Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Solskjaer has long had supreme faith in Tuanzebe, installing him as first alternative centre-back at the start of last season. But the youngster’s chances were obliterated by ongoing battles with fitness and injury, which meant his appearance in Paris was his first for 10 months.
Prior to facing a €400m strike force in the French capital, Tuanzebe’s last appearance had been in the Carabao Cup last December against a Colchester side from League Two.
The 22-year-old was not fazed by the prospect of containing Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. He showed his quality and composure during one particular moment when Mbappe attempted to take him on with pace, only for Tuanzebe to cleanly win the ball and send the Frenchman flying.
“To see Axel play as he has done - I think his last game was maybe Colchester - it's an unbelievable performance by him,” Solskjaer gushed afterwards, via ManUtd.com.
“He's only trained for a couple of weeks and he's absolutely spot on. Axel's a tremendous defender, a great leader. He's come through the academy and we've known for years that he's going to be a top player for us and he's got the character and the attitude that a Man United player should have.
“Sometimes you’ll get in a foot race with Mbappe and you have to run with him and we know Axel’s qualities, he’s a top defender,” Solskjaer added.
But it wasn’t just Tuanzebe who impressed in Paris, where United famously won 3-1 to complete an historic two-legged comeback in March 2019. Debutant Alex Telles justified his transfer deadline day arrival from Porto with a strong showing on the left flank, while Scott McTominay and Fred, both of whom played so well on United’s last visit to Parc des Princes, were also excellent.
David de Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford also stood up to be counted in what Solskjaer will now hope could be a watershed moment following a difficult start to the season.
"These boys can play,” he said. “They enjoyed it. Attitude, work rate...you know the team spirit has been fantastic since they've come back from the international break so it's been brilliant.”