Manchester United have a few problems this season which were exposed in the 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon. There is a major problem in midfield which could be resolved with another new addition before the transfer window closes on Tuesday 31 August 2021.
That said, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will suffer a major problem in being able to sign a new player as there have not been any permanent outgoings this summer other than the players who were released at the end of last season, who were mainly academy players. Many players have left the club on loan though with James Garner, Brandon Williams the most recent.
Jesse Lingard was expected to be sold this summer with West Ham United seemingly leading the charge after his successful loan spell at the club during the second half of last season, but so far nothing seems to be happening. United have a big problem to solve in the midfield as only Nemanja Matic is experienced in the central defensive midfield position with Scott McTominay also playing in that position since Jose Mourinho managed the club. However, that is not a solution to the problem.
Obviously, many supporters of United would like to see Solskjaer sign a player such as Declan Rice, Ruben Neves, Eduardo Camavinga or even Aurélien Tchouaméni but there could be a solution in the current United squad that could be a fill in for the position – none other than Victor Lindelof.
Some will probably laugh at this suggestion but there is a possibility that the Swedish international, who has recently been given the captain’s armband for his country, could be a feasible option in the defensive midfield position. As United have signed Raphael Varane, who could be the permanent partner to Harry Maguire in the centre of defence, Lindelof will be seeking to battle for his place in the team.
Since he signed for United, he has been a player that could be impressive on his day but could also be a liability. There are many players that could fit this description and United have had many of them. Since the days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the defence has never really reached its potential. With Varane’s experience at the club, it could only be a matter of time before that happens. It is a plausible option that Lindelof could play just ahead of his defensive teammates, shielding the defence and offering something else going forward.
It may not be the best solution but this summer, with the arrivals of Tom Heaton, who signed as a free agent, Jadon Sancho, who was the most expensive player to arrive this summer and Varane, United’s ability to bring in more players is reliant on players exiting the club permanently. Lingard was expected to leave this summer, and still could but the likes of Andreas Pereira, who left for Brazilian side Flamengo on loan, Diogo Dalot, who was expected to leave the club permanently and now seems to be staying and Phil Jones, who missed the entire 2020/21 season due to a knee injury have upset the apple cart.
With players not leaving the club permanently, United probably do not have the available financials to bring in another top-level player, which seems to be a shame and something that many will not believe because of the clubs financial might. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and supporters not being at matches for the 2020/21 season, not to mention the tail end of the 2019/20 season, clubs will have lost a lot of money so for buying clubs, getting players on loan with options to buy would be more beneficial.
It may sound like an excuse, but it is the reality of the times we are living in right now. I am optimistic that things will return to normal providing the 2021/22 season continues with supporters being allowed in stadiums, which is what is expected, unless a spanner finds itself in the works once more.
During his career which started at Benfica as a senior player during the 2013/14 season when he made his debut, making more of an impact in the 2015/16 season. Of course, Lindelof did play for Västerås SK in his native Sweden as a youth before switching to Benfica, where he played for the B team for four season, finally breaking through to the senior team in the 2016/17 season, which is where United saw more of him and bought him in the summer of 2017.
Throughout his playing career for club and country, Lindelof have played more than 18,000 minutes to date and averages 0.8 tackles per match, which could improve a little. He also averages at least one interception per match, remembering that this is across his entire career. He also averages 3.7 clearances, 0.3 dribbles and 0.5 blocks per match. In the Premier League this season, which is only two matches for United, Lindelof averages one tackle, 0.5 interceptions and 3.5 clearances and last season averaged 0.8 tackles, 1.1 interceptions, 3.3 clearaces, 0.4 dribbles and 0.5 blocks per match.
Playing as a defensive central midfielder with the defensive surety of Varane and Maguire, not to mention Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, Lindelof might perform better under pressure. It will not be a solution for each match but could work in some fixtures. It could also see United get their wide players, including the fullbacks further forward in a match, effectively having three central defenders to rely on, which may give a better attacking dimension. Of course, it might not work either – but should still be tested if there is a call for it.
Whilst there have been moments that Lindelof has looked out of his depth at United, there have also been moments where he looked at the top of his game. During Euro 2020 for Sweden, he seemed to play with confidence, which is a good sign for a footballer. If he could offer this in a new position at the club, it could well be a masterstroke for Solskjaer and the club.
Lindelof is a professional and would probably do what was needed for the club, which is a positive sign for the player. hills there are many supporters who do not feel he is a player the club should have, if he moved to another club and performed to the best of his abilities, they would be the first to criticise, despite it being what they wanted. With a fanbase as varied as this one, there will never be 100% of people behind any action.
With Matic being the only experience central defensive midfielder, having the luxury of multiple players in this position would be ideal but it is also something that will be viewed as a luxury by the owners of the club, who let’s just say are not football savvy. It is one of those things. Lindelof could excel in this position and he could fail massively. It is one of those ‘don’t knock it unless you have tried it’ moments.
Lindelof has been known to be a utility player, capable of playing in the centre-back position, filling in as a right-back, a left-back, even playing as a central midfielder. But he has featured at the defensive midfield position 22 times, scoring three goals and two assists, so it is something that has been tried before and seemingly worked. It is worth thinking about and could be a solution to a major problem at the club, whether it be long-term or short-term. Hopefully, there will be a better solution than this but it is good to have a plan B as with the Glazer’s in charge of the club, you will have to settle for that sometimes.
Written by John Walker