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The World Cup is the perfect opportunity for Victor Lindelof to shine

Monday 18th June 2018

The World Cup is a special moment known to create stars. Consider why Argentines consider Diego Maradona superior to Lionel Messi. One can get away with blatant hand balls and still win a World Cup. The other can’t take penalties. Think about James Rodriguez, whose performance in Brazil 2014 earned him a big money move to Real Madrid. Manchester United know about it too. They signed Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo off the back of their performances at the same World Cup. This World Cup could do wonders for Victor Lindelof's career. Not to secure a move elsewhere, but cement his position as a starter at Old Trafford.

Victor Lindelof joined Manchester United last summer for €35 million, tipped to be Eric Bailly's partner in the heart of United's defence for years to come. But he lost his place with a woeful pre-season. Phil Jones replaced him. An error at Huddersfield made things worse. Since then, Lindelof has overcome his early struggles to put in solid performances whenever manager Jose Mourinho summons him. The games against Chelsea and Arsenal come to mind. In the second half of the season, we saw the real Victor Lindelof.

Sweden qualified for the World Cup in an incredible fashion, upsetting Italy in the playoffs. The Blue-Yellow were not even supposed to be in the playoff, drawn in a group with France and Netherlands. But they finished second and progressed. In both legs against Italy, Lindelof put in sublime performances, keeping Italian attackers at bay for 180 minutes. Jose Mourinho was among the spectators in Friends Arena, watching Sweden beat Italy.

The Swedish defender flourished in the low block, putting in the tackles, shielding the ball and playing accurate long passes. His qualities will be on display at Russia with Jose Mourinho watching on again. Lindelof is currently preparing to face South Korea, Germany and Mexico in Group F. Sweden have a strong chance to progress if their defence can withstand the Koreans and, when the time comes, Mexico’s multidimensional attack.

The 23-year old defender has helped his country keep six clean sheets in their last eight games. He has formed a watertight partnership with Andreas Granqvist. The Swedish captain is the aggressive tackler, Lindelof the calming presence. Sweden's game plan won’t change. Expect Lindelof to shine. It will be a shock if he doesn't.

He reads the game well, does not dive into tackles, has the physicality to compete in battles on the ground or in the air and possesses a superb right foot with which to clear or initiate attacks. He doesn't fade under pressure either. Sweden was the only team to beat France in qualifying. Lindelof made a big impact in that game, as he did against the Netherlands.

Things did not go his way in his debut season at Old Trafford. Then again, they didn't go well for Nemanja Vidic or Patrice Evra. Worse, Lindelof hasn't been paired consistently. He hasn't played alongside Eric Bailly and that is Manchester United's best centre-half pairing. Bailly will be the aggressor, diving into tackles, putting his body on the line and behaving like a warrior. Lindelof will have his back. The pair recall Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. They haven’t reached that tandem’s quality this early in their careers, but certainly can in seasons to come.

Lindelof is always an option to build up play. With him in the lineup, David De Gea needn’t launch the long ball every time. The Swede can initiate the attack with his passing. He communicates with his team-mates on the pitch, something which no other United defender seems to do. He steps in to cover for his partner's mistakes. The way he has recovered from his early-season errors is commendable. Lindelof has a mature head on young shoulders. He could be a team leader in time.

Is he the only player to make a mistake? Bigger players have made bigger mistakes and have still come back. That makes you a winner and makes you a Manchester United player. Unfortunately, people always say ‘we want a proper defender’ but those have gone out of the game. You have to be a modern defender and Victor is exactly that. - Bojan Djordjic

There are multiple rumours regarding United chasing Toby Alderweireld, Kalidou Koulibaly, Clement Lenglet and Milan Skriniar. In my humble opinion, the Red Devils need to focus on both fullback positions. Victor Lindelof can help Manchester United win the Premier League.

Vedansh Nathani

Manchester United fan from India. Follows almost all sports - football and pro-wrestling in particular. Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho are some of his favourites.

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