How does Lindelof compare in the scoring stakes?
Victor Lindelof has been a slow burner when it comes to breaking his Manchester United goal duck, but his maiden strike was worth the wait as it earned a point for the Reds.
The question is will the Swede turn out to be a potent red-hot Steve Bruce or a dead ember Jaap Stam in the Old Trafford central defender’s goalscoring stakes?
Lindelof blasted his first goal for the Reds in added time against Burnley on Tuesday night in the 2-2 draw during a Man-of-the-Match performance.
It was his 53rd appearance for United since his move from Benfica in the summer of 2017. In the list of United’s modern era centre-back stalwarts he’s not the slowest to get off the mark by a long chalk. Step forward Rio Ferdinand for that dubious accolade.
It took Ferdinand 140 appearances before he discovered the thrill of scoring for the Reds, netting against Wigan in a 4-0 home win in December 2005. With a final Old Trafford career total of 455 appearances, bettered only by Bill Foulkes among his central defensive counterparts, Ferdinand is 19th in the list of United all-time appearance makers and won the lot in United colours despite only scoring eight goals in all competitions all told.
So goals certainly aren’t everything. But it is not a bad thing to have in your locker.
One of the quickest off the mark after making his United debut is current Red Chris Smalling. He’d played just four matches before his Reds' goal account was up and running when he struck in a League Cup tie at Scunthorpe during a 5-2 win in September 2010.
Next was Gary Pallister, who after a difficult opening to his United career in 1989 after moving from Middlesbrough, won over the home support with a match-winning goal in a 1-0 league win against Nottingham Forest. It was the ninth match for Alex Ferguson’s costly £2.3million buy.
It took Bruce one game longer to register his first. Having signed from Norwich City in 1988, Brucie grabbed his first against Chelsea in a 2-1 away win at Stamford Bridge.
He was the daddy of them all though as a goalscoring defender. Bruce bagged 51 in 414 appearances for United, adding up to a one-in-eight ratio, with 19 bagged in one unforgettable season in 1990/91, albeit beefed up by a few penalties!
He’s probably still arguing to this day that his final goal stat should be 52 and as he deserved to be credited with the first goal in the 1991 European Cup-Winners’ Cup final in Rotterdam, prodded in by Mark Hughes as it prepared to cross the line.
United beat Barcelona 2-1 on that famous night and Hughes’s name is in black and white in the record books as scorer of both United goals.
Goalline technology theses days might reveal a different tale and conclusively decide whether Brucie’s header was over the line before Sparky followed up to make sure and nab the credit!
Most memorably though for Bruce was his late, late double against Sheffield Wednesday, the team he is soon joining as manager, under the noses of the Stretford End in that vital win in 1993, which, after the threat of a potential late season collapse again, saw United surge on to the first league title in 26 years in the inaugural Premier League season.
But being among the fastest off the mark to score your first goal for United as a central defender doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be in the Bruce bracket when it comes to the final count.
Jaap Stam wasn’t a slouch in front of goal and netted his first after 29 matches. The Dutchman scored against Leicester City at Filbert Street in a 6-2 thumping in the Treble season. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the only goal Stam ever scored for United!
So back to the question of whether United’s newest marksman Lindelof can become a Bruce or a Stam when it comes to backing up the front men.
Lindelof’s United career has taken time to ignite and it has only been in the last few months that he really looks to have got his feet under the table and his teeth into English football.
But the 24-year-old is growing into a consistent, solid wall for United’s rearguard. Having now got his natural defensive game in order, the Sweden international proved against Burnley that he might just have a goal poacher's instinct lurking inside him as well.
Second behind Bruce in the modern day United central defender’s goal output stakes is Nemanja Vidic, with a goal every 14 games ratio from his 300 appearances and 21 goals stats, just edging ahead of Ronny Johnsen’s nine goals in 131 appearances.
Victor did cheekily suggest to us he had a goal or two in his locker when Inside United asked him about blasting a a few special strikes in front of us in training at the Aon Training Complex last year. "I can score nice goals," he laughed.
Lindelof has the look of a centre-back who could return a Vidic-like contribution both in front of goal and as a United rearguard cornerstone.
Now there’s a thought to warm United fans this winter.
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