Axel Tuanzebe is into his third loan spell at Aston Villa.

After impressing in two previous campaigns at Villa Park, the Manchester United loanee is still yet to establish himself in the United picture.

Despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claiming he sees Tuanzebe as ‘the future of United’, his performances at on loan at Villa haven’t yielded regular football in Manchester.

For a player of such ability, and at a significant age in the career of a footballer (23), does Tuanzebe join Villa for good this summer, or keep chipping away at the United management next year?

The Villa Stance

Tuanzebe rivals Kortney Hause for a place in the Villa XI. From the league cup win against Barrow in August, Tuanzebe had started every game from then on until he was forbidden to play against his parent club Manchester United.

Tuanzebe was already edging himself into Villa’s lineup, and his chances of starting have now been amplified by Smith’s apparent move to a back five – consisting of three central defenders.

Kortney Hause is Tuanzebe's competition

Especially with the shortage of players in this area, Tuanzebe can be considered a starter in Smith’s team – even though Hause deputized brilliantly, as he always does, at Old Trafford.

Villa will be on the lookout for a centre-back or two in the coming windows. With only four in the squad, an injury crisis in this department could decimate hopes of reaching Europe this year.

Bite the bullet

I get the feeling the permanent signing of Tuanzebe rests solely with the player himself. Should he feel his chances at United are up, Aston Villa would be the obvious place for him.

Tuanzebe may feel he’s wasting too much of his career by trying to impress at a club that continues to purchase players above him in his position.

Not only that, but nine appearances in the Premier League last year (only four of which were starts), is criminal for a player of his pedigree.

Despite the promises from the United board, and the manager himself, Tuanzebe is still denied the chance to establish himself in the team.

Unfortunately for Villa, Tuanzebe signed a 1-year contract extension this summer, shortly before arriving back at Bodymoor Heath. Had he not signed the deal, he would’ve been a free agent by the time his loan deal at Villa expired.

To prevent such a scenario, United probably demanded an additional year’s contract in order to allow Tuanzebe to leave for this season.

Whether it be just a token gesture, or if Tuanzebe still has eyes on a long-term United career remains to be seen.

Cryptic message?

For some, the message posted by Tuanzebe on his Instagram account last week may have been plain and ordinary.

However, couple the short note with reports by local media that Tuanzebe has ‘found his smile again’ and is ‘loving football’, and suddenly the Villa cause may be greatly ahead of United’s in the player’s mind.

Tuanzebe wrote:

‘Villa fans,

The trust, love, chant and support is heartfelt

Thank you very much

Up the Villa’

The choice of some words, in particular, leaves a lot to ponder…

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