A robust central defender, Axel Tuanzebe is a natural leader and captained the Under-18 team as a first-year scholar.
Born in Bunia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he has been nurtured by the club’s Academy since the age of eight after growing up in Rochdale.
The 2015 winner of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award was pushed into the Under-21s ahead of schedule after making three substitute appearances at that level in 2014/15.
He quickly nailed down a regular place in the older age group and even made the substitutes’ bench for the first team’s 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on 31 October at the tender age of 17. Unfortunately, injury halted his progress but he returned in time to help seal the Under-21 title.
Axel trained with the first-team squad ahead of the pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic in July 2016, with former manager Jose Mourinho keen to observe the promising centre-back.
Tuanzebe captained the Reserves to good effect, showing his leadership qualities again, and his outstanding form in 2016/17 culminated in him being named the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year.
He earned a place in the travelling squad for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Hull City, before making his competitive first-team bow in the Emirates FA Cup victory over Wigan in January 2017.
A few months later Tuanzebe was handed his maiden senior start in May’s Premier League trip to Arsenal, in which he played 90 minutes. So impressive was the youngster, he started the next three league games that season.
The talented defender signed a new contract to run until 2020, with the option of a further year, and soon after played his first game in the Champions League, during our 2-1 win against CSKA Moscow in December 2017. He spent the second half of the season on loan at then Championship side Aston Villa, but made few appearances due to injury.
After returning to United – and playing 320 minutes of pre-season football for the Reds – Tuanzebe again rejoined Villa on 6 August 2018, this time on a season-long loan.
He excelled in his second spell in the West Midlands and started almost every match when available for selection. His impressive campaign culminated with a trip to Wembley, and Axel played the full 90 minutes as Villa beat Derby County 2-1 to secure promotion back to the Premier League.
On 5 July 2019, the club announced that Axel had penned a new contract, which will keep him at United until June 2022, with the option to extend for a further year. After an impressive pre-season, he was named on the bench for the Premier League opener against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
He captained United for the first time during the Carabao Cup tie against Rochdale on 25 September, becoming one of the club’s youngest-ever skippers in the process.
Axel signed a new contract with the club on 8 August 2021, before joining Aston Villa on loan for a third time.