Axel Tuanzebe

Tuanzebe: The Liverpool rivalry is huge for me

Having been a member of Manchester United’s Academy since the age of eight, Axel Tuanzebe knows more than most just what our rivalry with Liverpool means.

In an exclusive interview to preview Sunday’s visit of the Merseysiders, the central defender emphasised the importance of the game and stated that, after a productive international break, the squad is ready for the challenge of ending Jurgen Klopp’s side’s perfect start to the Premier League season.

Quizzed on the magnitude of the fixture, the 21-year-old told us: “Ah, it’s huge. It’s huge to me, it’s huge to my family, it’s huge to my friends. You know, I’m already getting messages now saying, ‘Make sure you beat Liverpool’.

Axel Tuanzebe in action against Newcastle United
Axel has played the full 90 minutes in four of our last six games in all competitions.

“It’s always been a big rivalry. Growing up, it’s been a big rivalry, playing them in Academy age groups has been a big rivalry.

“We are confident in our week’s preparation and confident in the players that we have to win the game.”

Tuanzebe – who has started the last two league games, against Arsenal and Newcastle – is yet to experience a competitive first-team encounter against the Anfield outfit.

Axel does, however, have plenty of memories of facing – and watching – the Merseysiders during his time with our various youth teams, with one tussle particularly sticking out.

“You can always remember the losses,” Tuanzebe recalled. “It’s harder to remember the victories, because they don’t stick. You win, you win and you’re happy, but your losses stick with you for a while.

“It wasn’t my personal victory, but I do remember our youth team beating them 3-2 in the FA Youth Cup [quarter-final, in 2010/11], I think. Winning that game meant they [could go on to win] the competition.

“So that was a big game, it was a tough game, it was brutal [four players were sent off, including Paul Pogba]. But yeah, that’s one of the games I remember.”

While a United result against Liverpool is always welcome on this side of the rivalry, it would be particularly celebrated considering the start each club has made to this Premier League campaign.

Paul Pogba is sent off during Manchester United's FA Youth Cup tie against Liverpool in 2011.
Axel was watching on as United beat Liverpool in a feisty FA Youth Cup tie in 2011.

The Anfield side, seeking a first league title since 1990, are eight points clear at the top after winning all of their games so far.

Meanwhile, United are 12th and our centre-back has set his sights on using Sunday as a starting point for improved results.

“It would mean a lot to us, it would mean a lot to the fans,” Tuanzebe added. “You know, just to boost confidence, have us on a snowball effect and get a win and momentum.

“I think that’s what we need right now to get us back on track and playing the football we know we can play.”

Countdown to United v Liverpool
Axel Tuanzebe says

"It’s huge to me, it’s huge to my family, it’s huge to my friends. You know, I’m already getting messages now saying, ‘make sure you beat Liverpool.'"

Sunday’s match, which kicks off at 16:30 BST, marks the beginning of a busy period for United, with away tests against Partizan Belgrade, Norwich City and Chelsea all looming before the end of October.

The return meeting with Partizan is sandwiched between Bournemouth away and the visit of Brighton before November’s international break, but Axel insists regular games will help when it comes to putting a run of form together.

“It starts adding up, [it’s] heavy on the legs. But we have a big enough squad.

“Obviously, we have a couple of players injured, but we can get some of them back for this stint, so then it allows good rotation, keeps us fresh and ultimately puts us in the best position to win as many games as possible.”

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