Manchester United: Victor Lindelof is a potential star
Having signed from Benfica less than a year ago, the Swedish international has had a frustrating opening season at United but has shown potential to be a future star.
(Photo credit: REUTERS/CARL RECINE)
Many Manchester United fans understandably still reminisce over their all-conquering teams of years gone by.
A decade ago, one of the best ever central defensive partnerships of modern football was blossoming at Old Trafford.
Serbian Nemanja Vidic partnered Rio Ferdinand in the heart of Manchester United’s defence and helped provide the bedrock for five league titles and three Champions League finals in the space of four seasons.
Scraping the barrel
It is not unfair to say that the calibre of defenders at the club in recent years has not reached the elite level of their predecessors even if there is strength in depth at the club which many of their rivals struggle to reach.
Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Marcos Rojo are all adept in the position yet aside from Smalling, all have suffered from injury problems in recent times.
The one similarity that links all four defenders is their lack of comfort in bringing the ball out of the defence and passing to a teammate further up the pitch.
They share more defensive characteristics with the no-nonsense Vidic than they do with Ferdinand, who excelled in his reading of the game and ability to carry the ball forward.
Slow adjustment to the Premier League
This is a fundamental reason behind the decision to add Victor Lindelof to the squad last summer.
The Swedish international does not look particularly comfortable in the air or being forced into making tackles. Instead, the former Benfica man is highly regarded for his positional play and technical ability in possession.
In many ways, his game is not naturally suited to the Premier League where aerial play and fast-paced football are the norm.
Lindelof starred in the Portuguese top flight in three successive title triumphs for Benfica but it is a different football environment and culture, and it was unlikely to ever be a quick nor smooth transition.
A difficult start
His first season in Manchester has not been without difficulty, with his appearance at Huddersfield back in October particularly traumatic.
It was only the Swede’s second league appearance for the Red Devils, having come on as a substitute in the draw at Liverpool the previous week.
An early injury for Jones demanded his introduction and he could not adjust to the pace of the game as the Terriers scored two quick-fire goals from long balls played in behind the visiting defence.
It was a harrowing defeat and experience for Lindelof, with doubters quick to emerge. It should not be forgotten that David de Gea endured similar questions upon his Old Trafford arrival as he took time to adjust his game and work on his natural weaknesses of defending across high balls and crosses.
The need for time
Unlike the Spanish goalkeeper, Lindelof was not playing even semi-regularly so any transition would take time.
Recent performances have been more encouraging. He excelled in the goalless Champions League draw at Sevilla and has provided assured performances from the start in recent victories over Chelsea, Swansea and Arsenal.
This signing is not a quick-fix and Lindelof may not develop into the player many hoped he would, but the slow start is natural and the potential benefits for Manchester United are huge.
Fans should remain patient and afford the defender time make his mark.
Do you think Lindelof will improve next season? Let us know in the comments section below.