Victor Lindelof: The answer to Manchester United’s centre half question

On the 21 October 2017, Manchester United lost their first league game of the season 2-1 to newly promoted Huddersfield Town. Summer signing Victor Lindelof, in only his second Premier League appearance inexibicably misjudged a Huddersfield goal kick allowing Laurent Depoitre to score what would prove to be the winning goal.

Four weeks later, Lindelof started a rare league game versus another newly promoted side, Newcastle United. The Swede once again was culpable for a goal, as he slipped inside the United box allowing Dwight Gale to pounce to score the opening goal. Thankfully on this occasion, United were able to recover and win 4-1. However, the nervousness in the United defence due to Lindelof’s uncertainness was palpable.

Lindelof barely featured in the Premier League again until the end of the season.

This was all a far cry from the reputation the former Benfica defender, Lindelof had built up in Portugal where he had learned his craft since 2011. Lindelof was regarded as the “Iceman”, a cool, eerily calm defender who could be mistaken for a player in his thirties not his early twenties, due to his relaxed, confident demeanour. The unsteady, nervy Lindelof that appeared in the Premier League in Autumn 2017 was unrecognisable from the player who had so impressed United boss just a few short months earlier.

2016-17 was Lindelof’s breakthrough season at Benfica. He played a key role in his side’s Double-winning success, made 40 appearances in all competitions, impressing with his passing from the back and in his high success rate winning aerial duels. The 2017-18 Lindelof didn’t come close to meeting those standards.

Despite his less than impressive debut season at United, Lindelof was selected for his native Sweden’s World Cup squad for the 2018 edition of FIFA’s premier competition.

Lindelof started four of Sweden’s five games in the competition before they were eliminated in the Quarter Finals.

Lindelof looked far more assured at the heart of Sweden’s defence and impressed with his tackling and skill on the ball.

This was the Lindelof that United had signed in June 2017. His World Cup performances excited the fan base as the United faithful finally saw what the Swede was capable of. It must have been a huge confidence boost for Lindelof as well; performing so well on the biggest stage in Football.

Worryingly though for Lindelof, it seems as if, Mourinho is still not entirely convinced the 24-year old possesses the attributes that convinced him to spend over £30 million in 2017, as evidenced by his continued pursuit of another central defender in the 2018 summer transfer window.

However, Mourinho would do well to spend that money somewhere else, as the answer to his centre-half question lies in his squad already with the Swedish star. Lindelof has all the tools to thrive at the club and 2018-19 could be a turning point for Lindelof’s United’s career. If it is to be a long and successful one, it needs to be.

However, at only 24 years of age, he has youth on his side. There is no doubt the talent is there as demonstrated by his time at Benfica and the 2018 World Cup with Sweden. Lindelof has the temperament as well. It is time to show it at the Theatre of Dreams week in week out. Hopefully, Mourinho will allow him the opportunity. If he does, Lindelof will no doubt take it.

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