Manchester United could have some players back from injury against Liverpool but will it make a difference?

Manchester United will be back in action in the Premier League on Sunday as they welcome league leaders Liverpool to the Theatre of Dreams in the clubs first local derby of the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team owe the supporters a performance worthy of the support they have been given but that could be problematic with injuries.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood have all suffered injuries with some expected to be back soon. Diogo Dalot was injured in his last match, whilst both Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah remain on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery before the end of the year.

It has been suggested in the media that Paul Pogba could be back for the Liverpool match, however, reports have also suggested that he will miss the clash. I guess if you cover both bases, you have a good chance at being right, which is something the media do at times, all in plain sight so many don’t question it, instead use it as propaganda against the manager.

Victor Lindelof is reportedly getting ready to play for Sweden against Spain on Tuesday, which could suggest he will be back in the squad to face Liverpool. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been absent for the last three matches suffering from tonsillitis, with hope that he will be able to play after sitting out for the international break also.

Luke Shaw has missed eight matches along with Anthony Martial, both of whom suffered thigh injuries in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace back in August. Shaw has been training since before the 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar, so could be ready to fortify the left-back position but Martial could still be a doubt as he might not have trained yet.

Phil Jones could also be back, although he has played just 135 minutes of football this season, is unlikely to start many big matches. Axel Tuanzebe has risen well ahead of him in the defensive ranks this season, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Solskjaer also suggested that Jesse Lingard, who missed Newcastle United defeat, may be back for this match.

Mason Greenwood, who has played a lot of football with both Martial and Marcus Rashford having time on the sidelines so far this season, suffered a lower back injury against Newcastle, which stopped him from playing for England U21s during the international break. He will be assessed ahead of the Liverpool match, which is not great news.

Diogo Dalot is also back on the sidelines through injury, suffering more of the same, to do with his hip, which kept him out earlier this season, which also suggests the problem was not solved and may have been prolonged. Not that he’s a big miss, as he is unlikely to start at right-back much this season based on his lack of experience.

Both Bailly and Fosu-Mensah are expected to be out until at least late December, in Bailly’s case, not return date for the Dutch defender, which might mean he will be out until 2020. United, however, are not crying out for defensive reinforcement yet, which is a positive at this time, not that many will see it that way. Some players seem to be made of glass now.

Hypothetically, if it were expected that Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw and Pogba, Lingard and Martial were all back in the team against Liverpool, would it make much of a difference? That is a question that many will answer right away negatively, as the fan base, at least on social media is toxic and heading much deeper than that.

Some will wonder if these ‘people’ are actually supporters of the club or whether they are supporters of the decline, moaning about anything and everything. United have not had much luck this season. Injuries have been costly to this already threadbare squad and talent, determination and desire were already scarce before injury took its toll.

United should be fired up for matches such as this one against Liverpool. They were up for the clash against Chelsea at the start of the season, the best performance of the season incidentally. United has a history of playing in these big matches and all of the players who are fit to play should have the desire, determination, and hunger to achieve.

Victor Lindelof renews contract at Manchester United signing five-year deal

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof has signed a new five-year contract to remain at the Old Trafford club. This would see him remain at United until the summer of 2024, although there is the option for a further year to be added to his contract. In the summer, there was speculation that Barcelona wanted to sign the Swedish international.

The 25-year-old signed for the club in the summer of 2017 under the management of Jose Mourinho. After a pretty poor first season, the Swede dug in and was the best defender at the club last season, continuing that this season, partnered with summer signing Harry Maguire – an indication that the defence has been sorted for the foreseeable future.

Lindelof has played 74 times for United in just over two years, scoring one goal, which came under current manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer, the equaliser in the 2-2 draw against Burnley earlier in the year, in which he was named the Man of the Match by the clubs supporters. Speaking to the official Manchester United website, Lindelof said:

“Since the day I arrived at United it has felt like home. I have grown significantly both as a player and as a person in the last two years and for that I am grateful to everyone at the club for their help and support.

“I love playing football and my aim now is to help the team to win trophies and repay the fans for their unrivalled support.

“I know that everyone at the club shares this vision and will give everything to get Manchester United back to where it belongs.

“I’m still young and know I can improve further but with the help of the boss and his coaching staff, I believe that only good things are ahead for this great club.”

Solskjaer will be happy to retain the Swedish international who has risen to the challenge of playing for United in the past 18 months or so. The fact that the club now has a ball playing defender in their midst who is being given opportunities to show his ability is a great thing to happen after years of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling underachieving.

The Norwegian spoke about Lindelof establishing himself into his squad, also becoming a very important part of his team, which is good to hear. The fact that the Swede shows calmness on the pitch is light years ahead of the panicking of Jones and Smalling, although it was not always like that. Solskjaer, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Victor [Lindelof] has established himself here and has become a very important part of our team. He brings calmness on the pitch and I can see that he is determined to help this club and to be successful here.

“I’m extremely happy that he has committed his future to Manchester United. We’re all looking forward to working together to deliver the success and get United back to where we know the club belongs.”

United now have a strong foundation in defence with Lindelof and Maguire as the first-choice defenders with Axel Tuanzebe currently the third option in the team. Once Eric Bailly is fit, he will content with the trio for a place in the team, which will not only strengthen the defence, it will bring the best out of all of these players.

Solskjaer will be seeking to find a team that can contend for titles and trophies for the years to come with United spending too much time out of doing just that, It is good to see a manager with a plan for the future, which might be costly right now. Blooding in youth and building around that is the way of this club and that should never change.

Looking at Manchester United’s defensive depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United did well during the summer transfer window, adding Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who signed from Crystal Palace and Harry Maguire, who arrived from Leicester City. It was a summer that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to pay attention to the defence, which allowed more than 50 goals to be conceded in the Premier League along last season.

Solskjaer spent £125 million; £80 million for Maguire and an initial £45 million for Wan-Bissaka giving some much-needed defensive ability ahead of the 2019/20 season in which United would be tasked with chasing the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, to regain a place in the top four of the league.

United finished sixth last season, five points adrift of a place in the top four, which could have been much different if United managed to beat both Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City at the end of the season. However, hindsight is only fantastic when you look back as if you change two factors, other factors may have had to change also.

Goalkeeper depth; Solskjaer does not need to worry in this area.

Solskjaer has three great first-team options in goal this season; David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Lee Grant. That will be the order of importance in the squad. The club also had the likes of Dean Henderson, Joel Pereira and Kieran O’Hara, who have all been loaned out to Sheffield United, Hearts of Midlothian and Burton Albion respectively.

De Gea will be the go-to guy to start the majority of matches, namely in the Premier League. As for the Carabao Cup, the UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup, it could well be Romero who features, as he did in the cup competitions last season, other than the UEFA Champions League, of course. Grant could be a shoo-in for matches in these competitions too.

It was hoped that Henderson could have been afforded time in the Premier League this season but with De Gea’s contract being extended by the extra year agreed to in 2015, it was unlikely that he would be the first option in the goalkeeping ranks, however, he will get that Premier League experience he craved for, which might do him some good.

Fullback depth; Solskjaer’s options are much improved this season.

Last season, United’s defence left a lot to be desired. First of all, in the fullback position, Jose Mourinho, who started the season as manager, then Solskjaer had Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, and Diogo Dalot to choose from in both the left-back and right-back positions. Not a lot of pace, or youth for that matter.

Valencia was on the sidelines for much of the season, leaving the other four to contend for places in the squad. Young was often criticised, as way Shaw. Dalot was too inexperienced, but gave his all and Darmian seldom played. This season though, after the departure of Valencia, Wan-Bissaka arrived and has improved the position greatly.

Both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw will face competition from Young and Dalot, who can both play on the left or the right. Darmian may still play a part despite his future up in the air, although his current contract will expire at the end of the season. The fullback role is looking good for the current season with youth coming through the ranks to add more competition.

Central defensive depth; the strongest defence in six years?

Solskjaer has Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe in his ranks for the current season. There was the rumour of Rojo likely to depart before the closure of the European transfer window at the start of September, but it is just rumour right now. With seven players, there is some depth in this area.

Bailly is injured until the Christmas period, meaning Solskjaer has six players contesting two positions in the squad. Lindelof and Maguire secured the central defensive area in the 4-0 victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford last weekend and will be expected to resume their positions against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday evening.

In case of injury to either Lindelof or Maguire, or the need for rotation, Tuanzebe will be a great option for Solskjaer as he did well during pre-season and learned some valuable things on loan with Aston Villa last season. The likes of Jones and Smalling could also be considered. Rojo not so much, based on pre-season appearances.

The depth of this squad is pretty good, despite the moaning for central midfield signings during the summer transfer window. Solskjaer will have had targets and if it was not possible to sign them, panic buying was just going to create more problems in the future with many players on high wages and unable to be moved on; Alexis Sanchez for instance.

United have many options in different areas; a minimum of three players, counting those already in the first team this season, which are players who have already made their debuts for the club in the recent years. In some positions, United has four sometimes five options, based on my opinion on where they would be able to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

This is the formation which Solskjaer has used more often than not, and a formation which will get the best out of the attacking players, using their hunger, determination and more importantly, their pace to launch attacking and counter-attacking plays during matches. Solskjaer’s identity seems to be young, courage and success.

Above, you can see the 4-2-3-1 formation, keeping an eye on the defence where there is a minimum of three players for each position, listed in order of importance to the squad. At fullback, both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw seem to be safe, although the emergence of Dalot could change that, more for Shaw, if he does not improve as he should have.

In the centre of defence, Lindelof and Maguire are certain to start more matches together, fitness and injury aside, but in that instance, there is some depth which could help get United through a difficult time. Tuanzebe, at least for me, is trusted more than the likes of Jones and Smalling; Bailly is at the bottom because of injury at the present time.

If the Ivorian improves his game, he could add more competition for either centre-back, which in turn will inspire players to perform to the best of their ability in order to keep their place. Competition is the best thing to bring the best out of players. This defence could achieve a lot; first of all to ensure they concede fewer than 54 goals this season.

The candidates for the Manchester United captaincy ahead of the 2019/20 season

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make ahead of the new Premier League season which starts in just over a fortnight with United hosting Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday 11 August 2019. The decision is who will captain the squad this season. Antonio Valencia, the previous club captain left the club this summer.

There are a number of options for Solskjaer to choose from which range from goalkeeper David De Gea, fullback Ashley Young, central defender Victor Lindelof to midfielder Paul Pogba. There are other players, who could be a sort of wild card option along with any further new signing Solskjaer will make before the transfer window closed in two weeks time.

Here are reasons for (and against) players becoming the captain for the forthcoming season.

David De Gea

The Spanish number one could well be the best option for the captaincy role at the club. It could give him the challenge he needs to commit his future to the club for the rest of the best days of his career. De Gea had his contract extended for another year based on the clause in the contract he signed when he nearly left the club in the summer of 2015. There have been many reports of the goalkeeper signing a new contract this summer but so far, nothing has become official.

Whilst De Gea could make a good captain, he should commit to the club first. Solskjaer will rate him as a leader and recently he has suggested that he could step up and become a leader in the team, which has been lacking one for some time now. De Gea as the captain could be a good move for Solskjaer and the player himself as he will have committed to the club that he so wants to be a part of. He is one of the longestserving players at the club and will be respected like any other long-serving player.

Victor Lindelof

The Swedish central defender had a great season last season and was the first name on the team sheet as far as central defenders go. Finding him a partner which can not only bring the best out of the pair is what Solskjaer needs to do this summer. Some supporters have suggested that Lindelof deserves to be the captain next season. For me, he is a contender but needs a bit more time at the club in order to captain the team. So far so good though. In the future, the Swede could well be one of the best defenders to play for the club.

Lindelof could well be that voice in the defence that is needed in order to push his defensive partner, and those ahead of him in midfield and further forward but for me, there are players who seem to be more respected in the team based on the fact they have been there the longest. Solskjaer will not want to upset the dynamic of the team which giving the captains armband to an effectively new player in the team could cause. Players such as De Gea, Young and others might be more respected by the majority of the squad but there is not reason Lindelof could not be a voice within the squad, leading from the back.

Ashley Young

The 34-year-old seems the most likely player to be named the club captain this summer, whether people agree with it or not. Young is the joint second longest-serving player at the club right now, behind Chris Smalling arriving at the same time as Phil Jones. Young is respected by his teammates, despite his form taking a massive dip over the last year. Young could be the club captain in a similar fashion as Valencia last season, playing a small part on the pitch – a captain does not need to play.

Young has been a great player for United, albeit as a winger rather than a fullback but over the past few seasons, he has offered something that was lacking in the squad. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw likely to occupy the fullback roles and Diogo Dalot likely to rival the former, Young might have to settle for a bit-part role as a fullback this season, which may not be good for him but in terms of competition, it could be the best option for United right now. Like Valencia, he could be a good captain off the pitch with a vice-captain who plays more doing the on-pitch duty.

Paul Pogba

Many supporters would like to see the Frenchman as the captain of this club. However, first of all, something needs to be established. Does Pogba need a new challenge away from United or is he fully enlisted in the cause for the club? Three years ago, he came back to the club because he had unfinished business. Does he want to change that or does he still want to have unfinished business at United? Pogba will need to think about a few things before accepting the armband, if it is offered to him.

Over the past few seasons, Pogba has emerged as a player with the ability but seems to have played only when Paul Pogba wanted to. In order to captain this team, that needs to stop right there and the hunger, thirst and determination to succeed need to become a major factor in his game. Pogba has everything in his locker to be the leader in this team but if he does not have the desire to lead the team, this would not be the right move for Solskjaer or the player.

Other candidates

I have been keeping an eye on social media for comments from supporters who think other players should be considered for the captains role in the team. Names mentioned are Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Matic and even Anthony Martial. I am surprised by some names which have been mentioned. Smalling is the most senior player at the club this summer but that does not mean he should be named the club captain. Right now, the best thing he can do is win his place in the team back, which might be made more difficult should a new defender arrive.

Rashford is an honest player to be named but this season is going to be one for him to show his best at the club. He is likely to be the main striker in the team and he will need to knuckle down and bring the goals the club desperately needs to get back on the road to success. Naming him the captain will only complicate matters and his has his entire future ahead of him, if this is something he wants to achieve in the future. Matic seems to be out of form and will be in the same predicament as Young, not playing much so that option is out of the window too.

When Martial was mentioned, despite his honest talent, I did laugh. So many supporters seem to overrate him massively. He has been poor for the last few seasons and has hardly looked happy at the club. He signed a new long-term contract but that does not mean he has made it. In a few years, if he starts to do what he talent suggests he can do, there is no reason why he cannot be a contender for the captaincy but for the immediate future, the best thing the Frenchman can do is put his head down, listen to the advice that he has been given and work towards becoming that player his talent could help make him.

A new signing?

United have been strongly linked with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, an attack minded midfielder from Sporting in Portugal also the captain of his team. Whilst it is not certain that United will sign him; reports seem to contradict with some suggesting that there is interest and others suggesting that there isn’t. However, for a new player to come into the team and be given the captains armband might not be the best option.

The same could be said for Harry Maguire, which currently plays for Leicester City, although there is a belief that his time at the club could be all but over with United waiting in the wings. I don’t think allowing a new player to become the captain just after they have signed is the best thing for the squad dynamic. However, like with Lindelof and others, being a vocal player in terms of leadership will not be a bad thing in the team.

Does Victor Lindelof feature in Manchester United’s long-term plans?

Since arriving at Manchester United in the summer of 2017, Victor Lindelöf has been a common name on the squad-sheet for the club and has developed into a fairly impressive player on the pitch.

Lindelöf’s arrival at the club, unfortunately, did not render an impressive start to his career at United, as he did make twenty-nine total appearances for the club in all seasons, but struggled in the Premier League primarily as his seventeen appearances weren’t quite to the United standard.

However, the now twenty-four-year-old centre-back was able to get his form turned around throughout this season and has started to emerge as a reliable defender in the United squad. 

Lindelöf’s improvement seemed to be parallel with the hiring of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and since that change, the Swedish national has already made nineteen appearances in all competitions, clocking just over seventeen-hundred minutes of playtime since mid-December.

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While his performance since December has been an improvement, the 2018/2019 season has been a much better overall season for Lindelöf. The defender has been credited to over a hundred clearances, recoveries, and duels won and has been credited with fourteen wins this season, nine of those being under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Nearing 25, Lindelöf has the potential to be a candidate in the debate about who may be leading the club on the pitch as the club goes through a rebuilding phase.

As the defender grows and moulds into a reliable player, he has the opportunity to compete within the squad for the captain’s spot, as no one has been set in stone as the captain. If Lindelöf earned this spot he could potentially lead the club into what could be the next resurgence of United in Europe. 

Lindelöf has already gained the attention of some United alumni, as Rio Ferdinand recently told 90minabout how he can see certain similarities between Lindelöf and himself, which was Lindelöf’s calmness. 

“He’s very calm, never flustered. But I think in his first season, for a foreign player to come here from a league that’s not as challenging as this one, in Portugal, I think it’s difficult.”

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Ferdinand also went on to discuss the character of Lindelöf.

“He’s shown character. that’s a huge thing you need to be able to play for Manchester United, [you need to have] a good, strong character. His career at United didn’t start well, but he’s shown the character to come through that.”

Given the fact that players such as Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo are creeping up to their thirties, United will soon be looking to establish younger defenders as reliable members of the first team. With the potential of a clear-out as well, there is no telling as to who has been targeted by Solskjaer and Ed Woodward to exit the club.

Both situations potentially clear a path for Lindelöf to work his way into a captaincy at Manchester United, however, and it is up to Lindelöf to capitalize on what could be a legacy-making opportunity for the young player.

Written by Joel Dulka

The emergence of Victor Lindelof as a linchpin in the Manchester United defence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Since the arrival of Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager, the team’s performances and more importantly results have significantly improved.

At the time of writing United have been beaten just once in thirteen league games under Solskjaer, whilst also stunningly overcoming French giants Paris Saint-Germain over two legs to progress into the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013/14 season under David Moyes. I think it is fair to say that the shackles have been taken off, which has led to an upturn in form in individual players also.

One player whose performances have excited the Old Trafford faithful since the change in manager is Swedish centre half, Victor Lindelof. It had been quite a rough ride up until that point for the 24-year-old, only managing 17 Premier League appearances last season with Jose Mourinho at the helm.

It is safe to say he was slightly more in favour this campaign under the former manager up until his sacking in mid-December, with 13 league appearances under his belt before the change in manager. 

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One major change in the side upon the arrival of Solskjaer is his immediate decisiveness as to what his first eleven was. Lindelof went from being in and out of the side, being unsure of his place in the team and possibly of his future at the club also, to in a matter of days becoming the foundation of United’s back four.

The Swede has played the full ninety minutes in all but one Premier League fixture since the appointment of Solskjaer, with his only absence coming in the away fixture at Fulham when he was awarded a rest ahead of a midweek Champions League first leg tie against PSG.

Without a doubt, being entrusted as first-choice in the centre half pairing has come with added bonuses on the pitch for United and new caretaker boss Solskjaer. He has been allowed to display his qualities with the ball at his feet more often, with likely encouragement from Solskjaer and his backroom team.

His on the ball statistics have certainly given evidence to this, for instance, in 12 league appearances under Solskjaer, he has made five key passes, compared to zero key passes in 13 league appearances under Mourinho.

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In addition to this, the former Benfica man has averaged 54.75 total passes per game in the Premier League since the Norwegians arrival, in comparison to an average of 48.09 total passes for the eleven times he played the full ninety under Mourinho in the league this season. Not to mention the six shots, one goal and one assist he has had, versus the one shot and no goal contributions under the former manager this season. 

And while the stats reflect his clear improvement on the ball, off it he looks a new man also. Lindelof clearly has the respect of his colleagues, and is recognised as a leader, not only defensively, but across the whole pitch.

He constantly remains calm and assured on the ball, even whilst being pressed, which I can only imagine settles the rest of the team down massively. He often takes the responsibility of carrying the ball forward, sometimes 20 or 30 yards, when there are no better options available, before finding a pass to an attacking player.

In spite of all this, there remain improvements to be made in Lindelof’s game. But with the evident backing of the manager and the confidence currently in his game, he will go a long way to silencing critics such as Jamie Carragher and fulfilling his undoubted potential.

Written by Jack Grady

February Review: Ander Herrera, Victor Lindelof and Paul Pogba have all done well in February for Manchester United

Manchester United played six matches in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and the Emirates FA Cup in February, winning four and drawing once and losing once. United scored nine goals, conceded three goals, kept four clean sheets, won 10 Premier League points and won one FA Cup match, earning a place in the quarter-finals and lost a Champions League match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has started his reign at the club in fine fettle despite losing one game in 15 (so far).

United have continued their improvement under Solskjaer from the way they played under Jose Mourinho. The players are still happy, the coaches are still happy and the supporters are massively happy. March is a much tougher month for United but victories over Leicester City (1-0), Fulham (3-0), Chelsea (2-0), and Crystal Palace (3-1), followed by a defeat to Paris Saint-Germain (2-0) and a draw against Liverpool (0-0) has given the squad a good platform to head into what will be the difficult month of March.

During February, United had six different goal scorers and six players with assists; Paul Pogba scored three goals, Romelu Lukaku scored two and Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera and Ashley Young all scored once. In terms of assists, Pogba got three, Martial, Rashford, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof got one each. David De Gea kept three clean sheets and Sergio Romero kept one.

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Ander Herrera – five appearances, 376 minutes played, one goal

Ander Herrera would have played in all six matches in February if it was not for the hamstring injury he sustained in the 0-0 draw against Liverpool. The Spanish midfielder played in the victories over Leicester City, Fulham, Chelsea, the defeat to PSG and the draw with Liverpool, playing 376 minutes of football. Herrera scored once during the month, opening the scoring at Stamford Bridge as United beat Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup.

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Paul Pogba – six appearances, 523 minutes played, three goals, three assists, two MOTMs

Paul Pogba is the only nominated player to feature in all six matches United played in February. The Frenchman continued his good form under Solskjaer, playing 523 minutes of football grabbing an assist against Leicester City,  scoring twice against Fulham, getting a goal and an assist against Chelsea, grabbing another assist against Crystal Palace. Pogba was named as the MOTM for his performances against Fulham and Chelsea. He was sent off against PSG, missing the next leg of the match, which will be a blow for United.

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Victor Lindelof – five appearances, 450 minutes played, one assist

Victor Lindelof has continued his great form this season. He featured in five of the six matches, played 450 minutes of football, featuring in the victories over Leicester City, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, the draw against Liverpool and the defeat to PSG. The Swedish international seems to be at his best when partnering Chris Smalling, who returned from injury in February. Lindelof got an assist against Palace which will end a good month for both the player and the club.

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Notable Mentions: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and James Garner

United had a good month in February, winning four of the six matches played, drawing once and losing once. Solskjaer may have lost his unbeaten run but of the 15 matches he has now managed, just one defeat is a good sign. David De Gea has kept three clean sheets in February with Sergio Romero keeping one. Chris Smalling has had a good month, as has Ashley Young, who got himself a goal against Palace. February might be remembered for the injury crisis which saw 17-year-old James Garner make his full debut.

Who is your Player of the Month for February 2019?

A look at what lies ahead in March

In March, United will play five matches, somewhat shorter than both January and February but there is an international break. United start at home against Southampton (2/3). From there, they will return to UEFA Champions League action against PSG (6/3) in France. United then travel to Arsenal (10/3) then to Wolverhampton Wanderers (16/3), the third away in a row, this time in the Emirates FA Cup. After the international break, United end the month at home against Watford (30/3).

January Review: Rashford, Pogba and Lindelof nominated for Player of the Month award

Manchester United played six matches in the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup in January, winning five and drawing once. United scored 12 goals, conceded four goals, kept three clean sheets, won 10 Premier League points and won two FA Cup matches, earning a place in the fifth round of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still unbeaten in nine matches, matching both Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti in winning his first six league matches, bettering them by drawing his seventh – they both lost the seventh.

United have shown vast improvement under Solskjaer from the way they played under Jose Mourinho. The players are happy, the coaches are happy and the supporters are happy. February is a tough month for United but victories over Newcastle United (2-0), Reading (2-0), Tottenham Hotspur (1-0), Brighton and Hove Albion (2-1), Arsenal (3-1) and a draw against Burnley (2-2) has given the squad a good platform to head into February.

During January, United had eight different goal scorers and four players with assists; Marcus Rashford scored three goals, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba both scored twice, Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, and Victor Lindelof all scored once. In terms of assists, Lukaku and Sanchez provided two each, with Pogba and Diogo Dalot with one each. David De Gea kept two clean sheets and Sergio Romero kept one.

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Marcus Rashford – six appearances, 411 minutes, three goals

Marcus Rashford is the only player to be nominated for Player of the Month that played in all six matches during January. He only played 411 of football but scored three goals. Rashford was named Man of the Match in the 2-0 victory over Newcastle United and the 2-1 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion – scoring a goal in each of those matches. It is fair to say that Solskjaer has helped improve Rashford in such a short time, putting himself out there to be the leading striker at the club at this stage of the season.

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Paul Pogba – five appearances, 450 minutes, two goals, one assist

Paul Pogba has continued his good form for the club, which started after Mourinho was sacked, playing five out of six matches, playing 450 minutes of football, scoring two goals (both penalties) and adding a further assist to his tally. The assist that he created was against Tottenham Hotspur of which Marcus Rashford scored, the only goal of the game. Pogba has shown his leadership abilities, more importantly, becoming that player we all knew he has the ingredients to become.

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Victor Lindelof – five appearances, 450 minutes, two clean sheets, one goal

Victor Lindelof has been in great form recently, getting better as each game is played. In January, the Swedish international played five out of the six matches, playing 450 minutes of football, helped to ensure United kept two clean sheets (in the matches he played) and scored one goal, his first in a United shirt, which was an important goal – the equaliser against Burnley after United came back from 2-0 down with three minutes and added time to be played. Lindelof was also named Man of the Match in the Burnley draw.

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Notable Mentions: Sergio Romero, David De Gea, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku

United had a good month in January, winning five of the six matches played, drawing just one, continuing the unbeaten run Solskjaer started when he took over from Mourinho. During January, although none of them has been nominated, De Gea kept two clean sheets and put in a great performance against Spurs, Romeo kept a clean sheet, playing twice and Lukaku scored twice and assisted twice with Sanchez scoring once and assisting twice.

Who is your Player of the Month for January 2019?

A look at what lies ahead in February

In February, United will play another six matches. United start the month away from home facing Leicester City (3/2) and will then take on Fulham away from home (9/2), both matches are in the Premier League. United’s first home game will come against Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League (12/2). From there, United will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Emirates FA Cup before taking on Liverpool at Old Trafford (24/2). United end the month away from home against Crystal Palace (27/2).

Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof: The next world class centre-back pairing at Manchester United?

Having signed for Manchester United for a combined £60 million, it may come as a surprise to many that Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf have only made two appearances together in competitive games in the 14 months following the Swede’s arrival from Benfica in 2017, the second of these appearances coming in United’s 2-1 victory over Leicester City on Friday.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United were desperate to acquire a centre-back in the summer transfer window, with Harry Maguire reportedly the Reds top target. However, after a manic Deadline Day, United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was unable to secure the signature of a central defender, much to the frustration of manager Jose Mourinho, which could in fact be a blessing in disguise for the red side of Manchester, following the impressive world cup display of the Swedish Victor Lindelöf.

Lindelöf, described by former United man Zlatan Ibrahimović as “ready” for a top club, made thirty-five passes in the game against Leicester City and is United’s more modern ‘ball playing’ centre-half out of the two, who can bring the ball out of defence and start attacks for the club. Eric Bailly made six clearances and won five duels in the same match-making him the more traditional no-nonsense physical defender, with a similar play style to United legends Nemanja Vidić and Jaap Stam.

Given the chance, Bailly and Lindelöf could be able to form a defensive understanding and partnership synonymous to the reds throughout their success ridden years at the top of European football.

Although, Eric Bailly missed 25 of United’s 38 league games last season down to a combination of injuries and the fact that Jose Mourinho preferred both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones ahead of the Ivory Coast international. This suggests that the manager may not trust him in the centre of the defence and that he may not be able to complete a run of games together that allow a strong partnership between himself and Lindelöf.

Furthermore, Lindelöf didn’t fill the United fans with much optimism last season, making high-profile mistakes throughout the beginning of his career at Old Trafford, most notably gifting Huddersfield their second goal in their 2-1 victory over the red devils at the John Smith’s stadium in October 2017, meaning he may not be ready to become United’s first choice centre-back just yet.

However, as a partnership, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf are able to play to one another’s strengths. Bailly can win the ball back using his physicality, and play it to Lindelöf who can then bring the reds out of defence quickly, starting an attack with speed by finding a pass to one of United’s more dynamic attacking players; allowing them to turn defence into attack at a rate united fans expect, as opposed to the slower paced football that has been seen at Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

If the pair can collect a run of games together at the heart of United’s defence, and given their youth, they have the potential to be the Red Devils partnership for the next ten years and become famed as one of the Premier League’s most successful and complimentary defensive partnerships.

Written by Dominic Pelleymounter

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.

copyright: JW