Former Liverpool star Steven Nicol believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be wrong to assume that Axel Tuanzebe is capable of backing up his midweek heroics against Paris Saint-Germain and has urged the Manchester United manager to drop the versatile defender ahead of Saturday’s Premier League showdown against Chelsea.
The 22-year-old made his first appearance for the club in over 10 months on Tuesday in the absence of both Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly. Tuanzebe rewarded Solskjaer’s faith by producing an assured display at the heart of United’s defence, coping admirably with the twin threat posed by Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
United skipper Maguire is expected to be in contention to return against Frank Lampard’s side later this evening, and despite Tuanzebe’s triumphant return to the starting XI, Nicol feels restoring the England international to the side represents the most sensible course of action.
He told ESPN: ‘The Tuanzebe one is a completely different ball game. Had he been playing games I would keep him in.
‘That was his first game in over 10 months and I can assure you through experience, your first game you can run all day long. People will question this and say ‘how can you do this when you haven’t played for 10 months?’
‘It’s called adrenaline, it takes you through the game. But as an old pro I can assure you, your second game back after a long lay-off you’re half dead. For that reason, Maguire and Lindelof have to start.’
Speaking ahead of today’s heavyweight showdown, Solskjaer was full of praise for Tuanzebe and claimed his versatility could see him appear in three different positions over the course of the coming season.
He said: ‘It was a great performance by a kid who has not played for 10 months. But I think he can kick on. He’s a leader, he can play centre-back, right-back, he can play centre midfield, he can play many positions.
‘He’s a boy who takes responsibility for his own development. I’m sure he’s doing everything he can to have a long career at United so hopefully we can get this consistency.’