Victor Lindelof - The Iceman who is on fire
Lots of attention was paid to Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford following Sunday’s 1-0 win at Leicester City, after they expertly combined for our decisive goal, yet praise should also be directed towards Victor Lindelof following another top performance.
A clean sheet at Leicester is traditionally hard to come by - especially when Jamie Vardy is playing at lightning pace, running hard lines and desperately trying to extend his history of scoring against us.
Add Harry Maguire to the mix – a defender whose head is seemingly a magnet to the ball, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described him afterwards – and the Reds did brilliantly to keep out the Foxes.
Lindelof and his fellow defenders produced a resolute performance and deservedly earned praise from our caretaker manager: “We know we can play better but you can't play fantasy football every time,” said Solskjaer after the win.
“We fought for the ball, we fought for our mates, we put our heads on the line, we put our bodies on the line and it was a great defensive performance.”
Victor was also proud of the display against Leicester’s livewire attack. “We controlled it very well,” he told us in the tunnel. “Me and Eric [Bailly], we spoke before the game that we have to be ready. If we don't have pressure on the ball then we have to kill the space. They didn't have many chances and they didn't get behind us, so I'm very pleased by the way me and Eric controlled it.”
Solskjaer was right to praise the collective, but it is hard to deny that Lindelof has become an integral player in the backline who is growing in confidence and becoming increasingly vocal, playing alongside both Phil Jones and Bailly at centre-back during his nine appearances under Ole.
Victor scored his first United goal to salvage our 2-2 draw against Burnley last week and earned the Man of the Match award, as voted for by fans. On Saturday, it was confirmed he was third in the poll to name our January Player of the Month with 26 per cent of fans’ votes, finishing behind the ever-popular Pogba and Rashford. The latter is a highly credible achievement for the Swede, who claimed the prize earlier this season in November.
He has even been shortlisted for the Premier League Player of the Month award, along with Rashford, Burnley's Tom Heaton, Bournemouth's Joshua King, Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse. The winner of that prize will be named this Friday.
It is obvious that our no.2 is enjoying the best spell of his United career and he left the King Power Stadium with his reputation enhanced even further. Many fans were even describing him as a “Rolls Royce” and that is high praise, considering it is still synonymous with club legend Rio Ferdinand.
The feel-good factor continued later that evening, too, when his adopted NFL team the New England Patriots recorded a tactical 13-3 victory over Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. Sometimes things just go well for you and, with a baby on the way as well, Lindelof is on a hot streak in life.
This question is premature, given that we’re still in early February, but might Lindelof be among the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year contenders in May? Fan sentiment suggests he could be a leading candidate as we head into the most decisive and influential period of the season.
"Victor is number one at the club," said Treble winner David May when discussing our centre-backs on Monday. "In the last six months, he has been outstanding. He has come on a hell of a lot. He is a leader now and you can see that.
"Playing for Manchester United is a big ask at times and you don't realise how big the club is until you walk through the front door. It's huge! But I saw things in him last season when he came out with the ball, and was reading the game. He made a few mistakes, sure, but everyone makes mistakes and that's the way the game is. But he has been so consistent this season."
Victor is clearly one of the first names on Solskjaer’s team sheet and, in recognition of that, he might be rested for this Saturday’s Premier League match at Fulham, with the massive UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain to come at Old Trafford early next week.
The visit of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Thomas Tuchel’s Ligue 1 leaders will provide the biggest test of our defensive credentials, but there is plenty of cause to feel confident. Tottenham was ‘the big test’, then it was Arsenal, and then Leicester. All were passed with honours.
One thing is for sure: the Iceman is on a hot streak.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
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