Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Opportunity knocks again for summer signing Lindelof

United's £31m Swedish centre-half Victor Lindelof is in line to return tonight in United's Champions League opener.

Lindelof has not been seen in a Reds shirt since his bruising competitive debut against Real Madrid in the Super Cup defeat more than a month ago.

It was an experience not too dissimilar to that of Henrikh Mkhitaryan's chastening first start for the club at home to Manchester City 11 months ago.

He was taken off at half time and then did not play again for eight weeks, placed in cold storage by his manager. 

United boss Jose Mourinho has opted for an almost identical approach with Lindelof as he gives our new centre-half the time to adjust to the demands of English football.

But United's return to Europe's elite competition tonight will also mark the comeback of Lindelof, who will line up in central defence against Basel at Old Trafford.

He will partner another forgotten man, Chris Smalling, as one of only two available centre backs, in the absence of suspended duo Eric Bailly and Phil Jones.

Mourinho candidly pointed out that he probably would have opted to start the pair even if Bailly and Jones had been available - but, at this moment at least, that's not quite true.

It was easy to understand the boss's desire to build up the confidence of two players who have seldom been seen of late.
Smalling has his own point to prove, after a summer in which he might have left the club had fellow England man Michael Keane joined United in addition to Lindelof.

It is a bigger night for the Swede, however, as he bids to get his feet under the table following that £30.7 million move from Benfica. 

Lindelof endured a difficult evening in that Super Cup outing, and his lack of awareness and sharpness led indirectly to both of the European champions goals. 

His difficult start to life at Old Trafford is in stark contrast to that of fellow summer signings, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku, who have both immediately established themselves as indispensable in this side. 

Unlike Lindelof, however, both Matic and Lukaku boast considerable Premier League experience, and Mourinho has admitted that he will use the Swede sparingly to get him up to speed.

Jose hinted that Lindelof will start the Carabao Cup tie at home to Burton, but the return of Bailly and Jones for Matchday Two at CSKA Moscow will give the boss a selection headache. 








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