English Premiership

Solskjaer's faith in Lindelof leaves Smalling, Jones in shade

2019-08-19 07:21
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Victor Lindelof
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Victor Lindelof (Getty Images)

United Kingdom - Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants Victor Lindelof to partner Harry Maguire all season at the heart of his defence, casting a shadow over the long-term futures of England defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at Old Trafford.

Maguire is expected to shore up a defence that conceded 54 Premier League goals last season after becoming the world's most expensive defender following an 80 million ($97 million) move from Leicester.

But Lindelof, after some unconvincing moments earlier in his United career, has emerged as the obvious man to partner Maguire, finding a new level of fitness and consistency that has impressed his manager.

"I hope Victor and Harry don't give me a reason to change. No injuries, suspensions or lack of concentration," said Solskjaer, after the new partnership flourished in a 4-0 victory over Chelsea on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.

"They can both play, they read the game really well. Of course, Harry with his presence in the box, it's great for any centre-back to have that presence next to them. I'm sure Victor will enjoy that."

Injury to Eric Bailly, who could be out for the rest of the calendar year with a knee problem, might have presented veterans Jones and Smalling with a pathway back into first team contention.

But Solskjaer, surprisingly, left both off the bench against Chelsea, selecting 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe, who spent last season on-loan at Aston Villa, on the bench.

"Pre-season was a great chance for Axel to show what he's capable of next to our players," said Solskjaer.

"He probably impressed me more than I expected. That's why he's on the bench. He can slot in midfield and right-back as well, so he's able to play different positions."

Solskjaer also has Argentina international Marcos Rojo in his squad although United have made little secret of their desire to sell him prior to the transfer window closing across Europe on September 2.

One too many centre-backs

Jones and Smalling have signed new long-term contracts with United within the past year - until 2023 and 2022, respectively - but Solskjaer is putting his faith in the ball-playing abilities of Maguire, Lindelof and Tuanzebe.

"We want to play out from the back but we've got good centre-backs around as well. Axel is knocking on the door, he wants to play.

"Then again, Rojo, Smalling, Jones, Axel, they all want to be part of that. There's competition for those places.

"They're all quality centre-backs and I know that we will need quite a few of them. Of course, Eric's injury means that at the moment I've got six fit ones, which is maybe one too many to keep everyone involved."

The United manager also hinted 17-year-old striker Mason Greenwood will have a prominent role this season with the departure of Romelu Lukaku and rumours linking Alexis Sanchez with a move to join the Belgium forward at Inter Milan.

When asked which of his first-choice strikers, Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial, was the better natural finisher, Solskjaer opted for Greenwood.

"They've still got a way to go because Mason's more of a natural finisher than them two," said the Norwegian. 


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Saturday, 19 October 2019
Everton v West Ham United, Goodison Park 13:30
Leicester City v Burnley, King Power Stadium 16:00
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Southampton, Molineux Stadium 16:00
Chelsea v Newcastle United, Stamford Bridge 16:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Watford, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 16:00
Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion, Villa Park 16:00
AFC Bournemouth v Norwich City, Vitality Stadium 16:00
Crystal Palace v Manchester City, Selhurst Park 18:30
Sunday, 20 October 2019
Manchester United v Liverpool, Old Trafford 17:30
Monday, 21 October 2019
Sheffield United v Arsenal, Bramall Lane 21:00
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team

And the 2019/20 English Premiership champions will be ... ?

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.