Steven Gerrard accused of letting Man Utd history influence Aston Villa transfer decision

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Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard has been accused of letting his adversarial history with Manchester United affect his decision regarding Axel Tuenzebe. The defender’s brother and agent suggested that the arrival of Gerrard, who spent most of his playing career with United’s bitter rivals Liverpool, created an ‘unfair’ playing environment. 

Tuanzebe was snapped up on a second loan spell from United at the start of the season. 

Following a torrid run of results under former boss Dean Smith, Gerrard was appointed as his replacement in November. 

The West Midlands side have seen a noticable turnaround in fortunes since, with Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa the preferred centre-back duo. 

Ominously for Tuanzebe, when one of those two are unavailable, the former Liverpool man’s selection habits suggest that Kortney Hause is next in line, leaving the United loanee as fourth choice.

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The 24-year-old Red Devils loanee therefore changed course, with his brother Dimitri negotiating a recall and a subsequent loan move to Serie A high-flyers Napoli. 

“Axel is very excited to begin a new chapter in his football career, playing abroad and for a club with so much history behind it and fans who worship football,” he told ESPN.

“Axel didn’t decide to move until it became very clear that he isn’t the manager’s first-choice centre-back and the Napoli offer was very tempting.

“I have a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to Axel’s time at Villa.

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“He is loved by the fans as he contributed highly to the club’s success in the Championship where he was one of the key players that helped Villa return to the Premier League.

“However, following the arrival of Steven Gerrard at Villa Park, it felt as if the rivalry between Man United and Liverpool came to life.

“For the avoidance of doubts, Axel was very open to staying at Villa, he loves the fans, being in Birmingham.

“But he also has a career that he can only build and reach his full potential in an environment where opportunities to play are fair.”

Gerrard is yet to respond to the bold claims made by Dimitri Tuanzebe, although he has bigger fish to fry with a Monday-night clash against his old foes United looming large. 

Seemingly by fate, the two sides will face off again on Saturday, with Villa Park hosting the showdown. 

As for Tuanzebe, he already came off the bench to make his Napoli debut in a 1-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday. 

He will undoubtedly hope to earn a starting berth at the Italian side, with a six-point gap to Inter Milan needing to be wiped out between now and the end of the season. 

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