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

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