Man United's forgotten £30m man Victor Lindelof may not be a guaranteed starter next season


It’s truly a mark of Manchester United’s impact as a global brand when you see the fervour which accompanies their pre-season jaunts.

A sea of replica shirts surrounded United as they brushed aside LA Galaxy in their pre-season opener on Saturday night. There was barely any evidence of home support. The crowd even took to booing Galaxy defender Ashley Cole.

In such an environment, the big-hitters in the ranks of Jose Mourinho’s side are invariably mobbed for autographs and pictures. Paul Pogba was even accompanied by four burly security guards as he made the 200-yard walk from the changing rooms to the team bus.

But while the attention in Los Angeles centred on Pogba, Marcus Rashford and particularly new boy Romelu Lukaku, United’s £30million summer signing, Victor Lindelof, went slightly under the radar.

It’s a sign of how football’s exploding finances have changed the complexion of the game that a £30m outlay now appears to be a run-of-the-mill investment, yet the Galaxy friendly provided the first indication of whether Lindelof will effectively slot into Mourinho’s plans.

Arguably, there could be far more debate over the Swedish international this season than Lukaku. At least the £75m striker is a known quantity. Lindelof’s credentials as a Premier League performer are yet to come under the microscope.

Tellingly, Mourinho shied away from the tried-and-tested option in new Everton man Michael Keane this summer and instead prised Lindelof away from Benfica. That should provide United fans with some encouragement, given Keane’s consistency in a Clarets shirt last season.

The instant critics may have a few concerns that Lindelof was at fault for both of Galaxy’s late consolations - losing his balance as ex-Spurs flop Giovani dos Santos ran at him and then being beaten in the air from a corner for the second.

Let’s not get silly though. The pre-season campaign for United’s players is only 45 minutes old after Mourinho fielded a different XI for each half.

Of far more interest is how Lindelof fits into Mourinho’s defensive plans when the rust has been knocked off and the Premier League gets underway.



It seems a daft question considering United’s level of investment, but is Lindelof an automatic starter?

Perhaps not instantly.

Eric Bailly is surely Mourinho’s first-choice centre-half nowadays, after the former Villarreal man swiftly found his feet at Old Trafford last season. His power and pace make him a near-cert for a starting role.

Alongside him, there is often little to choose between Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. All are capable of playing multiple positions. All can produce decent runs of form. All are more than prone to the odd gaffe.

There was little wrong with those central defensive options last season, after only Spurs could boast a better defensive record in the top flight. It was at the other end of the pitch where United suffered and that’s why Lukaku needs to be complemented by further attacking recruits.

United need multiple resources given they will be fighting on multiple fronts, but Lindelof’s edge may stem through consistency. If he can avoid the errors which plague his fellow centre-halves, then he could become a regular alongside Bailly.

Mourinho’s other option, of course, is to use three at the back.

It was notable that Mourinho experimented with a 3-5-2 throughout United’s pre-season opener and suggested that he will use the set-up at times this season, even if he predominantly sticks with a four-man defence.

United certainly have the options to play in that fashion.

Jones, Rojo and Bailly are particularly comfortable on the ball, as is Daley Blind, if he slips into a back three. Likewise, Antonio Valencia, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw are arguably better-suited to operating as wing-backs than orthodox full-backs.

With a £30m price tag on his shoulders, Lindelof should be targeting a starting role in either set-up.

Whether he does or not is going to be an intriguing sub-plot in the early stages of the campaign while the media spotlight shines brightest on Lukaku.