Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had high praise for Axel Tuanzebe after the Manchester United defender’s brilliant performance in Tuesday’s defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.
The Red Devils got their European campaign off to a perfect start as Marcus Rashford’s fine late winner secured all three points for Solskjaer’s side in Paris.
Bruno Fernandes had opened the scoring from the penalty spot – at the second attempt after his first spot-kick was saved but ordered to be retaken – but the match appeared to be heading for a draw as Anthony Martial headed an own-goal past David de Gea to draw PSG level.
But Rashford popped up three minutes from time in the inside right position and fired a powerful strike into the back of the net as he repeated his former heroics in France’s capital.
Much of the pre-match discussion concerned United’s worrying defence which was missing captain Harry Maguire, and PSG’s fine attack including Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
But the world class duo were kept quiet at the Parc des Princes as Solskjaer opted to field a back three which featured Axel Tuanzebe making his first appearance of 2020.
And Tuanzebe put in a fine performance which belied his lack of gametime over the past calendar year, helping to shut down Neymar and Mbappe alongside defensive partners Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof.
“Axel did fantastic,” said Solskjaer. “He has been out for 10 months so to put a performance up like this against Neymar and Mbappe, he almost surprised us as well.
“He is a tremendous defender, a great leader. We have known for years he is going to be a top player for us. To see the way he was it was unbelievable. Absolutely spot-on.”
Goalkeeper David de Gea, who himself made some important saves throughout, added on Tuanzebe: “Unbelievable. He did really, really well. He has been in difficult moments but now he has showed he is capable of playing in big games.”
On the match more generally, Solskjaer continued: “It’s a different feeling from the last time we won here; it’s at the start of the group stage but we’ve beaten a fantastic team.
“Last time it was a knockout and it was euphoric, this is sterile without the fans but it’s still excellent and we deserved to win.
“When you go away to a team like this against Neymar and Mbappe you have to defend well and your keeper will have to make saves.
“Bruno missed two penalties in a row but he’s not going to stop taking them – he showed focus and character.
“We know we need ten points to get through so next week’s game is very important. There are so many games.”