Manchester United youngster Axel Tuanzebe has revealed his ambition to one day succeed Wayne Rooney and captain the Old Trafford club. The Democratic Republic of Congo-born centre back was named on the bench for the Premier League draw with Crystal Palace, the first time he has been recognised by manager Louis van Gaal.
The 17-year-old is a regular for the club's Under-18 side and has even made the step up to the Under-21 side this season. Tuanzebe is regarded as a ball playing central defender in the mould of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, according to club reporters.
Tuanzebe scooped the prestigious Jimmy Murphy young Player of the Year award last season, which recognises the best academy prospect at United, a prize previously won by Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. The player is already captain of the Under-18 side, coached by Paul McGuinness, but Tuanzebe has designs on breaking into the first team and following in the footsteps of Rooney by taking on the responsibility of the armband.
"At first, I was a bit nervous being captain of older players but, as we got into the season, we all grew in respect and we have a good bond with each other," he told MUTV, according to the official United website. "We've played together since we were young so I knew everyone I was with and it wasn't really a major problem.
"As the season continued, we just grew together as a team. I respected them and they respected me. It developed me as a person and now I feel more of a leader. I believe, one day, I can be a leader for this club. It would be my dream.
He added: "The [United] Under-21s is a better level with better players and it's really like men's football and is another stepping stone to the first team. Obviously, I won Player of the Year last season but finished off with an injury so I'm just trying to get my way back into the team and impress the manager really.
"My family were so proud of me, as were my friends and family and I was getting messages from all over the world saying 'well done'. I was happy to win the award but it's all about getting back into it and forgetting it, driving forward and being a regular player now. Once something happens, it's finished and onto the next one. You take it in your stride. Criticism is as good as praise really as it allows you to work on something you're not as good at. There's nothing wrong with criticism, you just take everything in your stride."