Axel Tuanzebe returns to Aston Villa on loan
(Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Aston Villa have announced that defender Axel Tuanzebe has returned to the club on loan from Manchester United.

The defender has signed a new two-year deal at Old Trafford but will be spending this season back in the Midlands. He turned down interest from Newcastle Unitedto return to Villa Park.

Emotional homecoming

This will be Tuanzebe’s third loan spell at the club, having initially joined the club in January 2018.

He had an injury-hit first spell at Villa Park, only managing a handful of appearances. He initially returned to Old Trafford, but Steve Bruce brought him back for the 2018/19 season after the club was taken over.

Bruce was sacked shortly after and replaced by Dean Smith. He went on to form an integral part of the team that went on to achieve promotion alongside Tyrone Mings. Tuanzebe was a popular player among the Villa faithful, but he signed a new Manchester United contract instead of returning permanently.

However, as increased game time at United failed to materialise, he has chosen to have a third spell with Villa. He will add valuable European experience to the Villa backline while also bolstering their defensive options.

How will he fit in?

The main point of concern among fans for Tuanzebe’s return is that there is no easy route for him into the team.

Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsaare an inseparable defensive duo while Matty Cashhas the right-back slot nailed down. Some fans have claimed that Tuanzebe is only swapping one bench for another.

However, the path is there should the player earn it. Frederic Guilbert remains on the fringes of Dean Smith’s plans, with the Frenchman making just one appearance in pre-season. Last season, he failed to make a single Premier League appearance and was shipped out on loan to Strasbourg in January.

With Ahmed Elmohamady also departing Villa Park this summer, the spot of backup right-back is open. Matty Cash has enjoyed some fine form at Villa and has shown a certain level of naivety. He has been shown up occasionally on the defensive side, particularly during matches against Liverpool and Manchester City, so the more defensive Tuanzebe could give him solid competition.

Villa are also short of a centre-back, with Bjorn Engels leaving the club this summer. Tuanzebe would offer cover in both positions, while also offering Smith a genuine Plan B in defence that they have so often lacked.