Axel Tuanzebe

Tuanzebe wants to finish group stage on a high

Axel Tuanzebe won’t be taking anything for granted when Manchester United host AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on Thursday evening.

The Reds secured qualification to the Europa League knockout rounds with two games to spare last month, but need to avoid defeat against the side that currently sit second in the Eredivisie to clinch top spot in Group L.

“Although we’re already qualified, we want to put out a strong side and win the game,” Tuanzebe told us.

“Remembering the [away] game against Alkmaar, they were a decent side and played decent football. Normally, Dutch sides are very technical. We want to win the last game at home and win the group.”

Highlights: AZ Alkmaar 0 United 0Video

Tuanzebe has featured in two of our five Europa League games so far, playing the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 win at home to Astana in September and also completing the reverse fixture in Kazakhstan two weeks ago.

Although the Reds lost that game 2-1, Tuanzebe was impressed with the impact made by our six debutants – Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard, Dylan Levitt, D’Mani Mellor, Largie Ramazani and Ethan Galbraith – at the Astana Arena.

“I think they played good football and showed qualities of being Man United players,” the 22-year-old added.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to win the game, but I was more than happy with a lot of the lads’ performances.

“They have big characters and courage to come out and perform in a difficult ground - there were so many variables and we were unlucky that we didn’t win the game.”

AZ have lost just two of 27 games in all competitions this season and the threat they pose could see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer select a more experienced line-up for Thursday’s match.

D'Mani Mellor and Dylan Levitt tend to an injured Jesse Lingard.
D'Mani Mellor and Dylan Levitt were among six United debutants in Nur-Sultan.

Tuanzebe believes the competition will only become more challenging after the new year, whether United finish first or second in the group.

Inter Milan and Ajax will definitely drop into the Europa League after Christmas, while former winners Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach and Porto could all be in the mix when the draw for the last 32 is made next Monday.

“I think you get the teams that haven’t qualified for the Champions League coming out and it improves the quality of the Europa League,“ he added.

“You have much more competitive teams, and you’re always happier when you’ve beaten a stronger team, and you can always improve more after beating a stronger team.”

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