Lindelof and Bailly: The new Vidic and Ferdinand?

The recent signing of Victor Lindelof from Portuguese side Benfica is a statement signing. In one swift signature, Jose Mourinho delved into the past for a formula that ensures consistent dominance. Putting together the final piece of his back four, Mourinho has undoubtedly created a center back partnership that will by all accounts, outlast his tenure at Manchester United.

Like the winning United teams of recent memory, Mourinho is building his bedrock on his center back partnership. Striking gold last year on Eric Bailly, Mourinho brought United the athletic and tenacious centre-back that we have so long missed since Nemanja Vidic departed the city limits. Reminding fans of my generation the guts and glory that a United center back should display, Bailly was arguably the most instrumental player in the club’s return to European prominence. Bailly has the strength to battle the league’s strongest strikers. His closing down speed is world class; recorded at 21.6mph he can outrun the likes of Marcus Rashford.

However, for all of his athletic prowess, Bailly’s most instrumental attribute is his attitude. Against Chelsea he chose to argue back at Diego Costa, the Spaniard who is known for triggering his opponents tempers to the point of a red card, getting right in his face. Next, he slid tackled Costa in the box with a physical take down; getting all ball in the process. This mentality has been missing from the recent United squads, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not a ‘lose your cool’ attitude demonstrated by the likes of Marcos Rojo. No, it’s the attitude of ‘We’re coming for the league’. Bailly would take a bullet to refrain from giving up a goal, and that’s exactly what we need.

For all of his physical and mental attributes, the one thing missing from Bailly’s game is ball skill. While a squad doesn’t necessarily need their best center back to be good with the ball, they do need him to be able to distribute from the back. Something Bailly cannot do. This is why Mourinho brought in Lindelof. One look at his skill set and its clear, Lindelof is great with the ball at his feet. He can distribute the ball to every angle on the pitch while honing the ability to make runs through the opposing team’s midfield which in turn offer up plenty of through balls to his mates. For all his on ball skills, Lindelof doesn’t sacrifice much in the defensive department. While he may not offer the aerial dominance of Bailly, he does offer consistency. Always willing to sacrifice his body with a bone-crunching tackle, he never loses his cool. With over 45 appearances for Benfica this season, he was only booked once.

If this brains and bronze duo sounds familiar, then you are able to remember a time when United were never second best. In the early 2000’s, Sir Alex Ferguson put together one of the best runs in English football history. He did this on the foundation of one of the world’s best center back partnerships. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic share just about every possible similarity to this years Lindelof and Bailly. Every tooth cringing tackle that Bailly threw in last season, Vidic has enforced ten times over. For every mouth-watering run and dish that Lindelof is sure to produce next season, Ferdinand has accomplished. Vidic afforded Ferdinand the ability to carry the ball past midfield without a worry. Ferdinand, in turn, gave Vidic the assurance of an open man whenever he found himself in no man’s zone with the ball.

If Lindelof is going to influence a game with his precision passing or curling free kicks, then he must have Bailly watching his back. If Bailly is going to be able to play aggressive and jump passing lanes or take to the air to win a header, he will need Lindelof there to scoop the ball. To achieve the best of each others’ abilities, they must rely on one another.

The history and success of Ferdinand and Vidic undoubtedly had influence in the signing of Lindelof. Mourinho now has his center back pairing of the near future, as well as the next decade of United teams. With Phil Jones and Daley Blind providing depth, the part of the squad that was a crack in the foundation has suddenly become our bedrock.

Written by Jordan Bullock


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