Pictures of the Manchester United squad donning matching sunglasses were circulated on social media hours before their clash with Granada, in a PR-move designed to promote eye-wear firm Maui Jim.
The makers of the designer shades market themselves as ‘the Official Vision Partner’ of United, joining dozens of other commercial behemoths in associating themselves with the Old Trafford club.
A penny, therefore, for the thoughts of the Maui Jim bosses and how they would surely have wowed by the vision shown by Victor Lindelof for his first-half assist to Marcus Rashford.
Whatever you can do, Toni Kroos, raking a 50-yard pass to Vinicius Junior for Real Madrid against Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday night, Lindelof showed he could do for his United colleague Rashford.
In that moment, the Swedish centre-back showed what he ought to have shown far more often in his three-and-a-half year stay at Old Trafford. He arrived from Benfica in the summer of 2017 with a reputation as a true ball-playing centre-back, and his £30million signing was viewed as the injection of cultural possession skills the United back line desperately needed.
Lindelof’s nickname is the Ice Man, largely due to his Scandinavian heritage but also because he is ultra-composed on the ball. Too often for United in recent years, however, he has been the invisible man. It has been difficult to settle on a strong opinion one way or another where Lindelof is concerned simply because, to put it bluntly, he doesn’t seem to do much.
It is precisely for that reason why United fans are so keen on seeing a marquee central defensive transfer this summer, to play alongside Harry Maguire. Lindelof allows too many situations to pass him by without a telling intervention. There is rarely an eye-catching challenge, or a superb recovery run. Never too much wrong, never anything that really compels the pundits or match report writers to go berserk about the Swede,
Sometimes this is because Lindelof’s positioning is excellent and he doesn’t need last-ditch heroics. That was certainly the case on Thursday night.
One pass and one clean sheet, with Lindelof among the man-of-the-match contenders, in the 2-0 win against Granada should not mean United shelve their plans to make an addition at centre-back this summer, of course.
Despite United’s defensive record of conceding four goals in their past 10 matches — Leicester aside — they harbour ambitions to improve the back line, amid Eric Bailly’s contract standoff — amid consistent fitness issues for the Ivorian — and due to a lack of Lindelof alternatives.
Raphael Varane would be an upgrade on Lindelof, although there is some debate over whether the other targets, Pau Torres and Ben White among them, would fit the same bill.
While United were beating Granada on Thursday night, Torres was busy scoring the only goal for Villareal in their 1-0 quarter-final first leg victory at Dynamo Kiev. United could yet meet him in this competition.
Lindelof, meanwhile, will have a free run to make his case to Solskjaer that he remains a viable first choice centre-back. Bailly is still in the Ivory Coast self-isolating with covid-19, while Axel Tuanzebe seemingly isn’t trusted by Solskjaer.
Lindelof will have to step up for the second leg, too, given Maguire will be suspended following his booking in Granada. He should be an automatic pick in the league from now until the season’s denouement, too.
He can use that time to change United’s minds about their transfer priorities, and whether they’ll bust a gut to sign a centre-back this summer.