Impending Old Trafford arrival Victor Lindelof assessed

source: talksport

It was a deal Jose Mourinho wanted to force over the line in January, but an agreement between both Manchester United and Benfica wasn’t reached until the weekend just gone.

Mourinho may want to bring in a striker to replace the departing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the Portuguese identified United’s defence as a key area for improvement at the turn of the year following lackadaisical performances from Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.

While he had hoped to improve at the back at the start of 2017, the imminent capture of Victor Lindelof certainly bolsters the United manager’s centre-back options. The Swede needs to undergo all the correct medical tests and gain international clearance before the deal can be confirmed, but that an agreement has been reached is a big step in the right direction.

While he had hoped to improve at the back at the start of 2017, the imminent capture of Victor Lindelof certainly bolsters the United manager’s centre-back options. The Swede needs to undergo all the correct medical tests and gain international clearance before the deal can be confirmed, but that an agreement has been reached is a big step in the right direction.

Despite Mourinho’s desire to improve at the back, United didn’t fare poorly in the Premier League last season by any stretch. Indeed, only Tottenham (26) conceded fewer goals than United (29).

Yet, as rivals strengthen, Mourinho was aware he couldn’t continue with the likes of Smalling, Jones and Marcos Rojo as the club’s primary defensive options – even if the latter excelled before injury – alongside the impressive Eric Bailly. The Ivorian was a key man for United following his arrival from Villarreal last summer, yet finding the right partner for the 23-year-old proved remarkably tricky.

In Lindelof though, Mourinho now has on his hands two centre-backs who have the means to form one of the strongest defensive partnerships in England’s top flight.

Whereas Bailly does all he can to deny opponents, Lindelof is a reassuring presence who can help bring calm to the United backline where once there was chaos. The Sweden international won’t go charging into challenges to deter opponents and win the ball back for his side, but rather use his exceptional positional sense to ensure attackers don’t get the better of him.

Of players to make 15+ starts in Liga NOS last season, only one was dribbled past more times per 90 than Lindelof (0.2). Ultimately, that meant he was dribbled past on just seven occasions in Portugal’s top tier last term, as attackers struggled to get the better of the young man.

Of course, considering Benfica averaged more possession (59.5%) than any other Liga NOS side last season, the eventual champions were rarely tested at the back, which meant Lindelof’s defensive capabilities were not often put to the test. However, that possession figure is only marginally higher than United’s (55%), meaning he’ll go into another side comfortable with dominating opponents.

While his defensive qualities will be challenged from time to time, there is no denying that Lindelof’s ability to play out from the back is up to scratch.

An average of 62.2 passes per game was more than any other regular centre-back in Liga NOS last term, while Rojo (45.3) comes closest to matching that figure among United’s defenders. A success rate of 89.9% was also higher than United centre-backs and with Mourinho demanding his defenders to play the ball out from the back, it’s clear Lindelof has what is required to help transition between defence and attack. Granted, a return of 0.6 tackles per game doesn’t make for comfortable reading, but this need to dive into challenges isn’t what makes Lindelof such a good defender.

1.7 interceptions per game is an improvement and highlights Lindelof’s notable ability to read the game as he looks to step forward to deny opponents. The physical side of United’s defending will be left to Bailly more than the impending arrival, similar to how it was with the formidable centre-back partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

At 22 years of age, Lindelof has time on his hands to improve, and while the pressure will be on to hit the ground running in the wake of his big money switch to Old Trafford, the centre-back is accustomed to the demands of playing for one of the league’s biggest teams, both domestically and on the continent.

United are far from the finished article, but Lindelof is an important piece in the jigsaw Mourinho is assembling.

More latest news

Comments

Top