Newcastle ‘eager’ to sign 23-year-old Man United starlet – Is Bruce making the right choice?


Newcastle keen on Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe

According to a report by The Telegraph (h/t Independent), Newcastle United are interested in signing Manchester United centre-back, Axel Tuanzebe. The 23-year-old English defender came through the Red Devils’ youth academy but spent time out on loan at Aston Villa from the start of 2018 until the summer of 2019.

The report adds that Newcastle United are ‘eager’ and ‘well placed’ to land Tuanzebe. The England U21 international has not had a lot of favour in United’s senior side and could well be at St. James’ Park next season. But is this a transfer move that would suit Steve Bruce? Let us find out by analyzing the centre-back situation at the Tyneside outfit.

Newcastle could use a defender such as Tuanzebe

On paper, the Magpies have four able defenders. Club captain Jamaal Lascelles (27) and Fabian Schar (29) are two quality defenders that Newcastle have come to trust in the centre of their defence, with Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark offering good squad depth. But that doesn’t mean that the club is free from the want of a new centre-back.

Axel Tuanzebe could be a good addition to Steve Bruce's Magpies.
Axel Tuanzebe could be a good addition to Steve Bruce’s Magpies. (Getty Images)

The most important thing to consider here is that Bruce played a five-at-the-back formation towards the end of last season. When a team deploys three centre-backs in their starting line-up, it would make sense for the club to have at least five quality defenders that can rotate and share game-time if and when needed.

The centre-back situation at Newcastle was problematic in the last few weeks of the 2020/21 campaign. Their manager, on a couple of occasions, had to use full-backs as central defenders in a five-at-the-back system, with right-back Emil Krafth and left-back Paul Dummett deputizing in that area.

While that approach can work for a few games, they can’t expect to go through a whole season like that. Moreover, the club has already confirmed the departure of 30-year-old French centre-back, Florian Lejeune, to Alaves, where he was on loan last season. That puts Newcastle in a position where signing a centre-back seems like a priority.

Axel Tuanzebe of Manchester United could be at Newcastle this season.
Axel Tuanzebe of Manchester United could be at Newcastle this season. (Getty Images)

Bruce should push for Tuanzebe

And that is where someone like Tuanzebe can come in. At 23, the young Englishman is in the formative years of his career and would be eager for first-team action wherever he goes. The Manchester United defender already has 72 senior appearances for Villa and the Red Devils in the first two divisions of English football.

Moreover, he would bring down the average age of Newcastle centre-backs by a considerable margin. The 23-year-old would add much-needed freshness to the Toons’ backline with Clark and Fernandez both 32 by the end of this year. The situation around Tuanzebe’s potential departure could also go on to suit the club.

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The aforementioned report by The Telegraph (h/t Independent) mentions that Raphael Varane’s imminent arrival at Man United ‘looks set to force’ the Englishman out of Old Trafford. A permanent transfer, if conducted, may give Newcastle an upper hand considering Tuanzebe’s contract expires next summer. A loan move would also not be a bad proposition, allowing Bruce the time needed to sort out a potential long-term solution at the back.