It is two years since Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought the name of Victor Lindelof to the attention of Manchester United fans.
Sat in the Academy building at the Aon Training Complex, the club’s former striker was at the top table during a press conference to preview the Europa League match against Feyenoord at Old Trafford.
A Swedish journalist seized the opportunity to ask his country’s legendary hitman about rumours Lindelof could transfer to a major club like United. The young central defender was grabbing all the attention on the international circuit for the Sweden team, and in Portugal for his then club Benfica.
Ibrahimovic gave his compatriot a pretty big build up in a few short sentences.
“Victor is doing great things. He has a lot of responsibility for the national team,” he said. “He is ready for the big clubs out there, it’s up to him and what he wants. I know he’s hot on the market.“
No doubt the Googling began to discover the background of the young defender, being flagged up for big things by none other than Zlatan.
If Ibra thought he was the business, then take note.
Of course, Lindelof followed Zlatan to Old Trafford in the summer of 2017.
It became a challenging first season for Lindelof at Old Trafford following his move from Benfica, a fact recognised by Zlatan last spring.
“I think it has been tough, it has not been easy,” Ibra said at the time. “There was great expectations and he did not get much game time.
”We talk every day, he grows and gets better. It’s all about getting into it and taking a place in the team. It is about confidence and finding his role.“
It seems that Lindelof has now found his role and the Swede is starting to give back United’s defence a voice… literally.
The 24-year-old is becoming a key figure in the rearguard, driving the communication among the team. It might not have gone all too smoothly against City in the Manchester derby, but it was evident that Lindelof has come out of his shell and was directing proceedings in the maelstrom of a local dust up.
There was also a moment of calmness and clear headedness when he was being badgered in possession by City’s midfielder Bernardo Silva.
One slip from Lindelof and Silva would have been in. But the Swede kept his head, shrugged off his opponent, set United moving forward and then gave out a few words of admonishment and encouragement.
“Taking a place in the team,” as Ibrahimovic said, is what Lindelof has now done.
Victor made his fifth consecutive start for United in last week’s famous 2-1 win at Juventus in the Champions League, which marked his longest unbroken sequence at the club.
Whereas he didn’t start a Manchester derby last season in his debut campaign, he was the go-to name in defence at City on Sunday and his run of starts has stretched to six.
United have always had vocal defenders in the rearguard, of course. Steve Bruce, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic could all dish out the verbals, if it was to organise the defence, to motivate and rally colleagues, or to rebuke team-mates.
Sometimes it did not matter if they were personally having a nightmare, they were still prepared to be a dominant figure in keeping the back unit tight.
Lindelof can grow into a player with those capabilities, to develop into a leader.
It is a trend that is developing at Old Trafford as manager Jose Mourinho ekes out the best in certain players. Luke Shaw has been on the treadmill at times, but is coming through the other side of a traumatic progress chart at United.
Anthony Martial, similarly, is obviously turning a corner this season.
Now Lindelof has joined the trend and the defence can only be better for it.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
Source : Manutd