Victor Lindelöf kick-starts his Manchester United career with one perfectly-timed tackle 5 years ago

Victor Lindelöf kick-starts his Manchester United career with one perfectly-timed tackle

"You can say it was a bad performance. But it was bad because Brighton were very good from minute one to the last minute."

Jose Mourinho was not wrong.


Manchester United got their three points on Saturday afternoon, but few would argue that they weren't fortunate to do so.

Approaching the hour mark at Old Trafford, the home supporters - with the exception of a few pockets in the Stretford End and J Stand - were near silent. No, the wind-chill probably didn't help, but it was the lack of quality in the football being served up by United that was responsible for the flat atmosphere.

As Mourinho would later acknowledge in his post-match press conference, Brighton were good. With the ball, they carried genuine threat in the game's early minutes; without it, they stayed compact, limiting chances for United's attacking trident of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku and stifling the more creative influences of Juan Mata and Paul Pogba.


As the game approached its final half hour, Jose Mourinho summoned Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the United bench. Minutes later, he would replace Mata, but as he removed a training bib and unzipped his jacket by the dugout beneath the shadows of the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, one of his countrymen produced one of the standout moments of the afternoon.

Victor Lindelöf was making just his second Premier League start since his arrival from Benfica in the summer. His first came only a week ago, when his slip helped allow Dwight Gayle to fire Newcastle United into a first-half lead at Old Trafford. Prior to that, his only other league appearances have come as a stoppage time substitute in the goalless draw with Liverpool at Anfield and the defeat at Huddersfield, where - having replaced Phil Jones as a substitute -he misjudged a goal kick which allowed Laurent Depoitre to score what proved to be the decisive goal.

No amount of painkilling injections would've been enough for Jones to return against Brighton. Eric Bailly also remained sidelined with injury, while Marcos Rojo - having only recovered from rupturing his knee ligaments last April - was rested after playing against Basel in midweek. Lindelöf had to start, even if the task of keeping Glenn Murray quiet might have seemed like a tall order for a player so error-prone in previous Premier League outings.


A clearance from Brighton was flicked into the path of Anthony Knockaert, who began to accelerate towards the United half. Lindelöf hurtled towards the Frenchman, leaving nothing behind him but open space, David De Gea and the United goal. By this stage, the defender had already reached the point of no return. Get this wrong, the referee would have a big decision to make.

He didn't get it wrong.

Using the rain-drenched Old Trafford surface, Lindelöf timed his slide tackle to perfection, winning the ball and sending Knockaert tumbling into the United half where he'd remain on the floor for the next couple of minutes.


Lindelöf had won back possession, but more importantly, he'd awoken Old Trafford. The tackle was greeted with a roar from the home support and United's players responded to it. No, the football was still far from perfect, but for the moments between the challenge and their horribly-deflected winner, United played with a sense of urgency which had been lacking for the rest of the afternoon.

Undoubtedly, this was a hard-fought victory for United and the kind of performance which makes it difficult to see how they will rival Manchester City over the remainder of the season. Five points behind Pep Guardiola's side, who have a game in hand, it remains to be seen how significant these three points will be for Mourinho's side.

It may, however, have at least proved to be an important game for Lindelöf, who - that tackle aside - was one of the best players on the pitch. Composed on the ball, he coped well with the physical challenge posed by Murray, and looked comfortable next to Smalling.  Still just 23, the defender may look back at this in years to come as the day he found his feet at Manchester United.