Jose Mourinho has explained why Victor Lindelof will emerge as an important asset for Manchester United, pointing towards his technical ability on the ball as a useful tool going forward.
The Swede was omitted from three of the four Premier League match-day squads following a shaky display against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
But he was handed a chance to impress from the start against FC Basel and, save for the occasional misguided ball, enjoyed a commanding display against the Swiss champions, keeping a clean sheet and producing a number of smart passes through the lines.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, made it clear that Lindelof was drafted in over the summer to add a sense of composure on the ball at the back.
“If he has to play Premier League he plays,” he said.
“There is no problem with that, can he make the kind of mistake that has in relation to be adapted to the Premier League? I think he can.
“But no, the nature of the Premier League is also changing and I think we need defenders that can play, we need defenders that can come into the midfield, bringing the ball, passing, because it’s becoming really defensive and we are going to face many teams with five in the back, plus two, three in front with blocks of defensive attitude.
“And Victor, out of all our defenders, is probably the one with more quality when he attacks the space in midfield, so yes he is going to play midfield, he is going to play in the Premier League.
“We have four defenders, I am happy with the four. Smalling also had a very solid performance, so fine.”
Lindelof did indeed treat us to a handful of moments on Tuesday night that revealed exactly why he was touted by Mourinho back in January. There was a perfectly guided looping pass over to Ashley Young on the right hand side in the first half that forced Old Trafford to take notice. He looked for Nemanja Matic frequently and, by picking him out, sped up the process by which United worked through Basel’s midfield.
That said, his positional sense remains a concern, but this will only improve with time. Make no mistake: he has the raw makings of a very accomplished – and modern – defender.