Manchester United might be set for international break boost
When Manchester United finally secured the signing of Harry Maguire many fans rejoiced believing the club finally had a solid centre-back partnership that had been missing for years.
United have struggled to find a quality partnership since the departure of Rio Fedinand and Nemanja Vidic in 2014. Five years of the managers struggling to settle on a first choice pairing and it affected the club.
Last season was the club’s worst defensively and it was clear Jose Mourinho was right to try and prioritise a central defender last summer. After a hit-and-miss first season at the club it became obvious during his second campaign in the Premier League Victor Lindelof was United’s first choice centre back.
The Swede established himself during United’s last campaign and many hoped the arrival of Maguire would iron out the problems which saw United have a disaster last season.
But that’s not been the case. The 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend is the only clean sheet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have kept this season with draws against Wolves and Southampton and a defeat against Crystal Palace at home ensuring United have only one once.
And Lindelof has looked uncharacteristically shaky. The 25-year-old has not personified his ‘Ice-man’ persona in the opening four league games and has melted under pressure, especially when it comes to aerial battles.
The Swede has already lost out eight aerial duels in 24 attempts in the league including for Southampton’s equaliser at St Mary’s before the international break when Jannik Vestergaard rose higher than the United man to head in from close range.
A similar situation happened in the defeat against Crystal Palace where Jeffrey Schlupp outjumped the Sweden international to play through Jordan Ayew who put the visitors ahead shortly after the half hour mark.
And it’s not just been aerial battles where he has struggled. The usually calm and composed defender has been sloppy in possession and his poor passing in all four games has allowed chances for the opposition.
His tackle success rate is a dismal 14% so far this season compared to Maguire’s 50% it’s clear to see which of the two has been struggling.
Maybe it’s the threat of competition for his place which has led to the Swede having an unsettled start to the season or the fact he is getting used to having a new partner alongside him in the form of Maguire, but the international break could not have come at a better time for the former Benfica man.
A solid performance capped off by a goal against Faroe Islands on Thursday could give the centre-back the confidence boost that he’s been missing at the start of the season.
Transition is rarely ever seamless and it’s a going to take more than four games for Lindelof and Maguire to start forging the same kind of relationship Ferdinand and Vidic enjoyed over the years. It may never get to that level but despite Lindelof’s early mistakes it’s the closest United have come in years to finding the solid pairing they’ve been searching for.
Solskjaer’s just got to hope the Lindelof that returns from international break is the one who continually impressed last season rather than the shaky 2017 version who was dropped from the team.
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