Advertisement

Jose Mourinho needs to give Victor Lindelof a Champions League chance

Jose Mourinho needs to give Victor Lindelof a Champions League chance
From ESPN - February 13, 2018

Next week, Manchester United will play their first knockout Champions League game since David Moyes' time at the club.

Jose Mourinho has guided United through to the group stages and they have been awarded with an winnable tie against Sevilla in the next round. This competition is one of the remaining two possible routes United have for silverware this season, with them still competing for the FA Cup, but the odds are obviously against them being crowned champions of Europe.

United may well currently be the second best team in England, when you look at how Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and Manchester City are running away with their respective league campaigns, it would take a brave person to suggest United are in with a shout in the Champions League.

Yet Mourinho has won the competition twice and on both occasions his team were nowhere near favourites. No one would have fancied Porto to win it in 2004, or Inter Milan in 2010, but Mourinho came out on top.

Last season, Mourinho sacrificed United's league position to prioritise the Europa League to ensure silverware and qualification to the Champions League. With City so far ahead this season, you would imagine Mourinho might try a similar tact this season and put all his eggs in the European basket.

But even the most optimistic United supporter can see a huge flaw with this plan. His defence is an accident waiting to happen.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have suffered plenty of criticism in recent weeks and United fans are wondering what Marcos Rojo or Victor Lindelof have to do to get a game.

Of the two defenders to start most games at the back, Smalling is the most vulnerable to losing his place in the team, after proving to be a greater liability than an asset. There's not even the slightest glimmer of hope that Mourinho can beat Europe's best teams, relying on defensively solid tactics, with Smalling in the centre of defence.

That's not to say that Smalling is not capable of brilliant performances, or even good spells at the back, because he is. But he cannot be relied upon when it matters. He's also not much use when playing the ball out from the back either. He either cautiously passes it sideways to the nearest defender, or launches it up the field to no one. Lindelof, by contrast, is a much better passer of the ball.

Advertisement

Continue reading at ESPN »