This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
Since his arrival in the summer of 2017, Victor Lindelof has often been the scapegoat for any defensive mistake involving Manchester United.
With a £ 30m signing from Benfica with José Mourinho, Lindelof came from Portugal’s biggest club with a reputation for being comfortable on the ball and a very good defender.
After making his debut for the club in the UEFA Super Cup loss to Real Madrid, Lindelof had to wait almost two months before taking his Premier League bow as a late substitute against Liverpool. His first significant minutes came as a replacement for the injured Phil Jones (I bet you never would have guessed!) In the next game against Huddersfield.
Lindelof came in in the 23rd minute of the game and in ten minutes, United were 2-0 down thanks to two errors by the Swedes. He failed to react to a fumble for the first goal and simply backed off until it was too late, before misjudging a header and allowing the forward to enter from behind.
He went on to make just 17 total Premier League appearances that season, but was largely considered to be not good enough, with that performance from Huddersfield always the first thing that leaps into people’s memory.
The following season he made 30 league appearances when Mourinho was fired mid-year and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. With United’s poor form coinciding with the additional inclusion of Lindelof, many ran with the narrative of him as the reason. He was quickly ignored when Solskjaer kept faith in him and the results quickly improved, leading to the Norwegian landing the job permanently.
Since Solskjaer’s arrival, Lindelof has been the first choice alongside £ 80 million captain Harry Maguire. He appeared 35 times in the Premier League last season as the Reds finished third and secured Champions League football, with him recording his best season yet.
Lindelof is doing much better defensively now than he was in his first season. Positionally, he has learned to give up an extra yard to make up for his lack of speed and is now part of a better defensive setup than when he joined.
The key numbers statistically show that you now need to do fewer tackles per game (1 vs. 0.8), dribble less (0.3 vs. 0.1), catch your opponent more offside (0.5 vs. 0.6) and commits the same number of fouls (0.6). ) in the process.
His presence on the wing is clearly too much as shown in two games in particular this season. Eric Bailly started in Lindelof’s place alongside Maguire when Tottenham visited Old Trafford in October.
Both central defenders had absolute nightmares, with Maguire possibly the worst player on the field, as the Red Devils were beaten 6-1 on their own turf.
Compare that to when Lindelof led the defense as part of a back three when he was joined by inexperienced Axel Tuanzebe and left-back Luke Shaw in central defense. United were completely solid, keeping Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria quiet for the most part, with their only goal courtesy of Anthony Martial’s head.
Lindelof is now comfortable playing on a higher line and has adapted his game tremendously to show that he is not the weak link that fans and experts intended him to be. He has the skill set on the ball to play for a high-level team and partnering with a high-level athletic defender alongside him could be the key to unlocking a high-level defense for United.
Is it world class? No. Are you even close to the best defenders in the league? No. But is it good enough to be part of a successful defense? Definitely. Let’s respect the Lindelof name in the future.