Marcus Rashford may have struck another late winner against Paris Saint-Germain as Manchester United marked their triumphant return to the Champions League with a comfortable 2-1 win at the Parc des Princes, but one player stood out from the rest.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found himself short of centre-back options, as club captain Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly were both ruled out of the Champions League clash due to injury, whilst Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones were left out of the squad for the group stages, which meant that Axel Tuanzebe was recalled for the first time since the League Cup quarter-final against Colchester in December last year.
The Red Devils ran riot over the French champions in the first half after a penalty from Bruno Fernandes gave them the lead. But PSG bounced back after the break when United striker Anthony Martial scored an own goal to draw the two sides level.
However, Solskjaer’s side held firm in the second half, as Rashford delivered once again to secure the victory. The England international scored a penalty in injury time as United completed one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history to reach the quarter-finals in 2019. But this time it was his teammate Tuanzebe who stole the show.
The Norwegian manager praised the “fantastic” defender for his defensive shift. He said: “Axel did fantastic. He’s been out since the last game against Colchester, 10 months or something? To put up a performance like this against Neymar and Mbappe… I have to say he almost surprised us as well.
“We know he’s a good player but on a night like this, he was fantastic. We might see this system again, of course, we have had some good games in it.”
SofaScore gave him a fairly average grade of 6.7, which is perhaps unfair – he won three out of five of his duels overall (60%), whilst he made one tackle and seven clearances, and wasn’t dribbled past once throughout the entire game.
Sky Sports gave him a 8/10 rating, whilst The Manchester Evening News went one step further, insisting he “will have grown a foot taller after he challenged Mbappe in a tight duel inside the area. Fantastic return on his first appearance in 10 months.”
It’s perhaps hardly surprising that Tuanzebe received praise from Rio Ferdinand. The club legend said: “Ole has just said that’s two of the best strikers in the world. He snuffed out danger on many occasions and you have to reward performances like that at a time of injuries.
“Again, first game in 10 months and to come in and play like that from out the cold you just deserve to be rewarded.”
With Maguire’s arrival last summer, it’s fair to say that the centre-half would have been anxiously looking over his shoulder as he found himself on the fringes of the squad. One thing’s for sure, there’s surely no better way to send the boss a timely reminder than by putting in one of the biggest performance of his career in one of the biggest games of the season so far.