After five years of Victor Lindelof, have we seen enough?
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has rightly seen plenty of criticism come his way this season. The club captain has been off the boil and made the £80 million spend look like a poor investment.
Yet, Maguire was not in the starting line-up at the weekend as United got rolled over by Brighton, losing 4-0.
Victor Lindelof was, and it is increasingly looking like the Swede should not be part of the answer for United at centre-back either.
This is no snap-shot reaction to the weekend’s defeat. We have had half a decade with Lindelof at the back, and he does not appear to be the solution.
Five years of Victor Lindelof
Manchester United fans have seen five years of Victor Lindelof in action since his £31 million move from Benfica in 2017.
This was a pivotal moment for United, a summer where Virgil van Dijk was available, moving to Liverpool six months later. United opted to move for Victor Lindelof instead.
The Swede struggled early on, and then he has had patches where he has been ‘fine’, to occasionally good, very good, to poor, rarely ever looking like reaching the high bars set by the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Steve Bruce, Jaap Stam et al.
The weekend’s defeat to Brighton saw Lindelof’s defending for the home side’s first goal criticised by Dutch analyst Ruud Gullit, in a game he won zero tackles, quoted by The Metro: “Let’s look at the way Lindelof tried to block that shot, I have honestly never seen this before. Look at him, he spreads his legs wide open. What’s he trying to do?‘He’s like: “I’m making things easier for you, go for it! Terrible.. just terrible.”
United’s entire side was awful against Brighton, but Lindelof has been particularly atrocious lately. He was awful in the away defeat to Manchester City, and in the loss to Liverpool at Anfield he was blasted by Ralf Rangnick for giving the ball away for their second goal, ignoring his instructions with the type of pass he attempted.
Rangnick told MUTV: “I have to say, the third goal was exactly the kind of ball that was on the blacklist of things that we shouldn’t do against Liverpool.”
This kind of sloppiness has become par for the course for Lindelof lately. In previous seasons he has suffered from struggles against more physical opponents. He has improved in this area, but his overall game has not been up to scratch.
Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane have not been great either, of course. Lindelof though has been at United the longest of the three, and it is clear he is not the long term answer.
Why Lindelof will likely stay to compete
Lindelof could have a key role to play next season. Sweden have not qualified for the World Cup, partly due to his own poor performance in a surprise defeat to Georgia.
With Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane off to the tournament, Lindelof will be fresh mid-season, and this could be a key factor during the year ahead.
Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe are also likely to be moved on this summer, meaning Lindelof should stay for depth.
United are also tipped to sign a new, younger centre-back, with Jurrien Timber and Goncalo Ignacio among the names mentioned. This would potentially leave Victor Lindelof dropping down to fourth choice.
So Lindelof’s spell at United is not over, but if Erik ten Hag felt that way, he could have no argument. The Swede has had his chance as first choice at Old Trafford, and it just hasn’t quite happened. If he left, there would be no tears from supporters, just a ‘thank you for your efforts’ and ‘goodbye’.
The Swede could turn it all round and win over the new manager, and he will need to come back looking like a completely new player. His recent displays simply have been nowhere near good enough.