We may only be four games into the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, but the Old Trafford faithful is loving every minute of it. A vibrant atmosphere has returned to the red side of Manchester, a feeling that was desperately faltering under the leadership of Jose Mourinho. This atmosphere has evidently made its way onto the field, with nearly all the players revelling under a new manager. One player though, who has been the central attention of recent praise is Victor Lindelof.
The Swede has been one of Man United’s most consistent performers over this festive period and is slowly asserting himself as the club’s best central defender. His performance against Newcastle United had the Red Devils rushing to social media to praise the 24-year-old and had it not been for a Marcus Rashford goal, Lindelof would surely have been granted the man of the match award.
Consistency is key
In terms of defensive injuries, perhaps no club in the Premier League has suffered more over the last two years than United. Under Mourinho, there was a constant chop and changing of the backline, simply because all the defenders spent more time in the physio room than they did on the field itself. Last season was Lindelof’s first in red colours and despite a rocky start, he enjoyed a good run of form during the second half of the campaign.
Under Solskjaer, the Swedish defender has not missed a single minute of league action, since the Norwegian took charge. The new manager is currently finding out exactly who he can rely on in his team and Lindelof has quickly stormed to the top of this list. Although the 2-0 victory away at St James' Park was the team’s first clean sheet under the Solskjaer reign, the central defender has still been one of the most impressive performers in the team.
At Newcastle, Lindelof swept up the danger with ease and specifically handled Saloman Rondon comfortably, when the big Venezuelan came onto the field. When the Swede arrived in England, many questioned his physicality and speculated as to whether he could cope against such forwards. Well, these doubts have been put to bed and many fans are now currently categorising Lindelof in being one of the most solid defenders in the division.
Consistency in selection at the back has been unheard of over the last five years at United, so it has been a refreshing sight to see a quality defender emerge from the squad and look at home in the starting eleven.
Distribution is the main difference
Not only has Lindelof’s defensive qualities been highlighted through his recent displays, but his distributional abilities have too. As a ball playing defender, the Swede is certainly comfortable in playing out from the back, a skillset that is currently helping United’s build-up play. As opposed to relying on Paul Pogba to drop into his own half and dictate the play, Lindelof’s ability to bring the ball forward allows Pogba and United’s fellow attackers to push higher up the field.
The distributional ability of the 24-year-old is an aspect that separates him from the club’s other defenders. In being arguably the only United defender who possesses this asset in his game, there is no surprise to see why Lindelof is emerging as Solskjaer’s first choice central defender.
Now, in an expansive system, Lindelof helps find his midfielders in open space and therefore, speeds up attacks when United are in possession of the ball. Playing the ball through the lines has been a particular highlight of Solskjaer’s new tactics and the Swede is helping his new manager implant this style of play successfully.
Many fans are now wishing to see Lindelof partnered with Eric Bailly on a consistent basis. The two, on paper, are certainly an ideal looking fit, so hopefully, they can replicate this potential on the field together. However, regardless of his defensive partner, Lindelof looks to be full of confidence when he steps out onto the pitch. Long may this form continue.