We can perhaps forgive Man United fans for being a little disappointed with the signing of Victor Lindelof this season.
After all, the Swedish centre-back was bought from Benfica for a cool £31 million in the summer, duly becoming the club’s most expensive defender since Rio Ferdinand.
But unfortunately, he’s often struggled to impress in the early stages of this season and largely failed to hold down a regular place in Jose Mourinho’s first-team plans, often being overlooked for the calamitous pairing of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling instead.
And even with Eric Bailly’s injury problems, Lindelof occasionally struggled to even make the bench.
Saying that, things have really started to look up for the 23-year-old, with decent performances in United’s recent games.
His run-out against Chelsea a couple of weeks ago was universally heralded by fans, with his growing confidence and defensive leadership shining through in the final moments of the 2-1 win.
And he impressed once again in United’s 2-0 win over Swansea this afternoon, win every single one of his tackles, but it was his passing ability that caught the eye of his manager.
After the game, Mourinho said: “Lindelof is probably our centre-back who comes into the midfield better with the ball and is a better passer of the ball.”
And the stats don’t lie.
What’s more, teammate Paul Pogba believes Lindelof has shown his worth for the most part of this season and has cautiously urged critics to keep in mind it’s his first year at the club.
Speaking to Expressen a few weeks ago, Pogba said: “His season has been very good. He shows the quality on the pitch, he has shown to the world and for all supporters what he can do.
“He is a very good player and we need him. He is a nice person off the pitch too, you must not forget that it is his first season.
“It’s never easy for the first year in England. He is a player who adapts very well. He is a quality player. He has been doing well.
“He has won big titles and played with big players already in Benfica, so he is not new to the football world.”
Lindelof’s compatriot and former United teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another who believes the defender simply needs more time.
“I think it has been tough, it has not been easy. There was great expectations and he did not get much game time,” he said this week.
“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.
“I try to support Vigge all the time and he trains really hard. And he really wants to do his best. He is good.”
Of course, when Lindelof arrived at Old Trafford back in June, there were a few former players, pundits and fans of the club who likened him to the legendary Nemanja Vidic.
Vidic arrived at the club from Spartak Moscow in January 2006 and really struggled to adapt in his first six months, even admitting that he initially thought the move was a mistake.
But the tough-as-nails Serbian eventually established himself as one of the club’s greatest ever defenders, earning himself the captain’s armband and winning five league titles and the Champions League in his eight-year spell.
Speaking in October, Ryan Giggs compared Lindelof’s start to life at United with what Vidic experienced in his first six months, saying: “Some players come to the Premier League and bed in straight away and others can take six months or even a year, as it was for Patrice Evra, Jaap Stam and Nemanja Vidic, and they went on to be unbelievable players.
“You win together and lose together and you can’t single out a player, especially when he hasn’t been playing regularly.
“He’s just got to knuckle down and come through this.”
While it’s certainly hard to tell at this stage whether Lindelof can go onto become ‘the next Vidic’ (comparisons of which are rarely helpful for a young player adapting to life at a big club), the early signs are perhaps more promising than many fans and critics would give him credit for.
And you never know, having got the difficult first season out of way, Lindelof could well become one of the club’s standout stars next season.
- Why did Jose Mourinho treat Bastian Schweinsteiger so badly at Man United?
- Vinicius Junior is well on course to being the next Neymar – and could be even better
- David De Gea is Man United’s ‘only world class player,’ insists Gary Neville