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Victor Lindelof

Victor Lindelof earns respect of United faithful

Victor Lindelof might not have managed to overhaul his attacking colleague Anthony Martial in the race for October's Player of the Month award, but the Swede's second-place finish in our poll proves that Manchester United fans are delighted with his recent form.

The man from Vasteras was also up against Martial's French compatriot Paul Pogba - another of the club's most gifted and popular players - but snared a very respectable 16 per cent of the vote to finish as runner-up after three encouraging displays against Chelsea, Juventus and Everton.
 
Writing about a player named 'Victor' finishing second has its complications, but those numbers show United's supporters' growing recognition for our no.2's efforts during a difficult period for the Reds.
 
I was in the Stretford End for the latter two matches, and Lindelof's increasing authority - and the loud and enthusiastic response to his efforts - was one of the most pleasing aspects of each game.
Victor Lindelof and Paulo Dybala.
Lindelof's resolute showing against Juve endeared him to the Old Trafford crowd.
The former Benfica defender battled through a testing first season in England, and a difficult start to 2018/19 followed, as Jose Mourinho's side were beaten at Brighton and West Ham.
 
After the 3-1 reverse at the London Stadium, Lindelof had to wait until our visit to Stamford Bridge for a return to the starting XI.
 
The prospect of negotiating arguably the Premier League's most dangerous creative threat, Eden Hazard, and Maurizio Sarri's free-scoring Chelsea might have sent lesser men under, but Victor responded with one of his best performances for the club, and made a crucial late intervention to thwart Olivier Giroud.
Up next? The small matter of Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Paolo Dybala's slightly fortuitous first-half winner was enough to give impressive Juve the win but, again, Lindelof emerged with credit, and was singled out by United legend Gary Neville as our outstanding player on the night.

Victor could be seen easily matching the speedy Joao Cancelo for pace, before classily chopping the ball away from United's goal and into his own path back up the field. Scrapping to win the ball back to help United sustain their attacking momentum during the second half. Dominating one-on-ones. Feeding off the crowd’s positive reaction to his determination, and taking more and more responsibility. He looked like a man becoming more accustomed to life under the Old Trafford spotlight with every passing minute.

“This was the first time Victor has played a game of this dimension and he had a positive game,”
said the boss.
“Lindelof and Smalling played well. They were fast, they were aggressive, they dominated the space, adapted very, very well. They pressed up, they got Cristiano in the movements that he does behind the defenders. They were really positive, both of them.”
Against Everton – in a game where United enjoyed much more possession – we were allowed more of an insight into what Lindelof can do on the ball, when his confidence is high.
 
I first watched Victor a few months before he joined the club – on a visit to Benfica’s Estadio da Luz in January 2017. They thumped relegation candidates Tondela 4-0 and the future Red barely had to make a tackle all afternoon. The Eagles completely controlled possession, and Lindelof’s role was more akin to that of a creative central midfielder, tasked with stepping into the centre of the field to start moves and thread passes through to his colleagues in the forward line.
 
In the match with Marco Silva’s side, you could see Victor getting his head up more and more often, and threading ambitious passes – with both feet – through to Martial and co. It’s a vital attribute for any top team and something Mourinho has admitted United have struggled with at times.
 
Against Newcastle – a game Victor was not involved in – the boss used Scott McTominay at the back to give United’s backline more creative capabilities. Later in the match, he moved Paul Pogba into the back three to give our attacks greater fluidity from deeper in the pitch.

Highlights: United 2 Everton 1Video

The rough and tumble of the Premier League, where even the best teams are hit with pace and physicality for a significant portion of almost every game, is something most imports take time to adjust to – Nemanja Vidic being an obvious example.
 
But Lindelof has proven he can cope with some of the British game’s more outre dimensions. His relationship with Chris Smalling, with whom he has started eight United games this season – and each of the last three – is maturing and shows promise.
 
In the grand scheme of things, three games and one month is only a platform. As ever at this club - and as harsh as it might be - you are only as good as your last performance. When I spoke to Smalling earlier this month, he told me being a Manchester United player was
“not just having a few good games, or one or two good seasons. You need to keep doing it and doing it.”
 
But Victor has shown the level he can reach in a red shirt, and the response he can elicit from the 76,000 that turn up at Old Trafford to watch the team.
 
Now, his mission is to maintain it.
 
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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