Despite positive impressions of Tuanzebe following his first spell at the club, the Manchester United man has been unable to re-create this earlier form.
Indeed, whilst few would have been said to be disappointed by the 24 year olds loan arrival at Villa Park last summer, he’s managed just 9 appearances since.
There are a number of factors that have impacted Tuanzebe’s opportunities since his time away. Most notably, persistent injury problems seriously impeded his development at United.
He certainly hasn’t looked as sharp this time around, and limited game-time amongst a Villa defence somewhat leaky towards the end of Dean Smith’s tenure didn’t help either. There has certainly not been the clamour to make the move permanent as before, with Villa rebuffed in their attempts to complete the transfer in 2019.
There were also contrasting performances in 2020/2021. A man of the match display against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League was offset by poor showings in the Premier League and Europe (at Istanbul Basaksehir and Sheffield United).
Tuanzebe was also subject to deplorable racist abuse on two occasions, prompting a public statement from Man Utd.Embed from Getty Images
Villa supporters hold fond memories of Tuanzebe being a solid and versatile member of the side that secured promotion from The Championship. However, no-one can deny that it’s a major step up to replicate such form consistently at the elite level of domestic and European football.
Tuanzebe has had few breaks either. His return to Old Trafford and attempts to establish himself at his parent club arrived at a time when Utd were lurching week to week under the management of now sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The lack of game-time at Villa has likely concerned United, and no doubt the player, whilst also alerting sides who are in need of a capable defensive midfielder. Ultimately, Tuanzebe needs minutes to rehabilitate his career after injury and an associated loss of confidence and a further move appears inevitable.
Napoli have been today strongly linked, which would see Tuanzebe’s loan to Villa terminated in January, before immediately joining the Italian side for the remainder of the campaign.
The Italian side, currently 3rd in Serie A, are currently searching for urgent reinforcements with centre-backs Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly departing imminently for the African Cup of Nations.
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