Little over a year ago to the day, on 21 October 2017, Victor Lindelof’s nervous start to his Manchester United career reached a nadir.
After being introduced as an early substitute against Huddersfield, the Swede completely misjudged a long goal kick from Jonas Lossl, allowing Laurent Depoitre to make it 2-0.
United failed to reverse that deficit and criticism rightly rained in on the £31m defender. He was described as ‘shocking’ on Soccer Saturday at the time and there were fears that he was a dud.
Even in pre-season, Lindelof struggled, giving away a clumsy penalty against Real Madrid out in America.
Not a Mourinho player?
As a young, ball-playing defender, he already didn’t look much like a Jose Mourinho player; which was compounded when he made mistakes that Mourinho will not tolerate his players making.
Mourinho’s protracted summer pursuit of a central defensive upgrade would suggest he still does not have total faith in Lindelof.
But one year on from that woeful error at the John Smith Stadium, he is now Manchester United’s best central defender.
The Swede has grown into English football and now offers the composure on the ball Mourinho hoped he would offer. Of United’s centre halves, he looks easily the most comfortable in possession.
Part of the future
He still has some improving to do, as the Brighton debacle early in the season proves. But he is streets ahead of Phil Jones, Eric Bailly’s composure is yet to catch up with his physical attributes and Chris Smalling is a very limited player clinging onto his place in the side.
Lindelof’s potential is as high as anyone’s in that backline and a run of games in the team has allowed him to show more of his ability.
A year ago, Lindelof looked lost and at odds with the rough and tumble of English football. Now, he looks likeliest to be part of United’s future backline, along with Luke Shaw and Diego Dalot. It’s been quite the turnaround.