No matter your thoughts on Victor Lindelof’s ability, no one can deny he has given his absolute all for Manchester United this season as he has soldiered on through a debilitating injury.
Lindelof has been plagued by a back issue for well over a year now but has continued to be a near ever-present in the United back-line alongside Harry Maguire, starting all but two matches in the Premier League and Champions League. Despite often looking in clear discomfort, he has continued to battle on, putting his body on the line and still managing to put some good performances in the process.
There have been a few occasions in which the Swede has been a doubt for a game in the run-up, yet come matchday he is nearly always in the starting XI.
Even for the 6-2 victory against Leeds, he had suffered a blow to the knee in a game just three days earlier. His resolve and resilience epitomises what it means to play for United and, just last week, he vowed to continue to put the needs of the team over his own health.
“It’s been tough,” Lindelof said. “I’ve been struggling a lot with my back over the past couple of months, so it’s very important for me to do the treatment and recovery right.
“And then against Sheffield, I got a bad knock on my knee so I was 50-50 for this game, but I managed to go out there and play even though I had pain.
“I just want to help the team and I’m happy that we got the win today. I’ve been struggling a little bit but I managed to play through the pain today.”
Yet it finally all caught up with him on Boxing Day, after filling in admirably at right-back, he was substituted after 66 minutes with clear anguish across his face, clutching the small of his back and needing to take a moment of rest between every few steps on his way to the tunnel. It was quite difficult to watch.
However, in further testament to Lindelof’s iron will, he could even be back in time to start the very next match against Wolves on Tuesday, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirming he will have a late fitness test to see if is able to play.
While it would be a feat of impressive grit for Lindelof to take to the field it would also be quite a worrying sign, as Solskjaer would rather choose a clearly not-fully fit player over his other options in Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe. There’s a lot to be said for having a settled centre-back partnership, but United’s reliance on Lindelof is becoming unsustainable as ideally he would now be given a significant period of time to rest and recover fully. That doesn’t seem likely and it can only be a matter of time when the injury worsens and he is finally ruled out for even longer.
Bailly and Tuanzebe have played well when called upon over the Christmas period but both also have had their injury woes and it makes sense that the manager may not want to come to rely on them either.
So with three of his four senior centre-back options being potential injury risks, it’s clear that recruiting a new centre-back in the January transfer window should be the club’s top priority.
Having another body available would lessen the load significantly on Lindelof – as well as Maguire, who has played more minutes in 2019/20 than any other top-level footballer in the world – and will mean Solskjaer won’t be forced into starting a player who isn’t fully fit.
It also must be mentioned that United could still do with a big improvement at the back. Though they are in great form, undefeated in their last eight Premier League games, they remain leaky at the back and have conceded more than any other team in the top 10. There are plenty of intriguing options and if a defender could be brought in to have a similar impact at the back as Bruno Fernandes has had going forward then we could be looking at a serious team.
Free Manchester United newsletter
Manchester United were frustrated after a late equaliser denied them a win at Leicester in the early kick-off on Boxing Day.
United twice took the lead with goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, but a late Jamie Vardy strike meant the match ended 2-2, meaning the Reds missed an opportunity to leapfrog the Foxes and take second spot in the Premier League table.
United don’t have too long to wait to get back to winning ways, as they host Wolves on Tuesday night.
MEN Sport will bring you all the build-up to and reaction from every United match. You can have it all delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our daily newsletter. Just put your email address in the sign-up box at the top of this article, or simply follow this link. It’s free and only takes a few seconds.
With a title race becoming more of a genuine possibility as the games roll by, it would be a crying shame if was to be derailed due to injuries and a lack of options in defence. Smart recruitment in January could make the difference in turning dreams into reality.
Lindelof has given his all to United, it’s time United gave him something back before his injury gets even worse.