Former Manchester United full-back Phil Neville believes that Victor Lindelof will need to work hard like Henrikh Mkhitaryan did last season to gain Jose Mourinho’s trust.
The Armenian, following a disappointing first start against Manchester City, was sidelined for almost three months before being finally handed a chance to impress – a chance he grabbed with both hands, scoring goals against Zorya Luhansk and Tottenham Hotspur soon after being reintroduced.
And Lindelof has likewise been ostracised from Mourinho’s main plans so far this season, making just three appearances and failing to feature in the Premier League at all.
Speaking on Sky Sports after man United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion, Neville noted that Lindelof would have to work hard to prove himself to Mourinho in similar fashion to Mkhitaryan.
“I think he’s probably going to have to look at the way Jose treated Henrikh Mkhitaryan last year,” he said. “He’s come to England, he’s 23.
“He’s not the most dominant of centre-backs, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jose played him at full-back this season. I think these cup competitions are absolutely crucial to Victor Lindelof.
“He’s got to integrate himself into the team, the style of football in England. The physicality in English football is totally different to Portuguese football.”
Similar questions that were once asked of Mourinho’s decision to leave out Mkhitaryan are now surrounding Lindelof and his sustained absence from the 54-year-old’s Premier League plans.
But haven’t we learned anything? Mkhitaryan’s spell on the periphery forced him to work endlessly, learn important lessons and gradually align with what Mourinho, and the result was emphatic. Doing the same with Lindelof – who is still acclimatising to the transition from Portuguese to English football – makes more sense than throwing him straight into the fire-pit.