sport news Victor Lindelof reveals there was no bad blood with Jose Mourinho

So, it turns out Jose Mourinho may have been wrong. He wanted a new defender at but it appears the one he needed was there all along.

Victor Lindelof sits at United's training ground. A No 2 on his training top suggests permanence, one of the first names on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team sheet.

He is 24 and, despite his defender's frame, still boyish in the face, but he has lived a man's life for as long as he can remember. Helping his mother in her difficult days as a single parent in Sweden, leaving home for Benfica at 17.

Victor Lindelof's No 2 suggests he is one of the first names in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team

Victor Lindelof's No 2 suggests he is one of the first names in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised then that when they said he was not good enough for United, Lindelof didn't worry. When Mourinho said he needed new defenders, the Swede told himself to try harder. When the TV pundits weighed in after a dismal defeat at Brighton in August, he knew he had overcome greater challenges in life.

Now, as United surge forwards on Solskjaer's watch, Lindelof is at the heart of it. Solskjaer has overseen 15 games since replacing Mourinho in December and the defender has started 13 of them.

'When he came I just wanted to show him my ability and maybe I have done that,' Lindelof told Sportsmail this week. 'He has picked me and now I have rhythm. I have been waiting for this.

'When you play badly and concede goals defenders get criticised. Some people like you, some don't and that's never been a problem for me. I know people talked about me but I didn't let it affect me.

'Nobody will criticise me more than myself. So people can talk and it's fine. And it's nice to change people's opinions.'

United's next game after the defeat by Brighton was at home to Tottenham. Lindelof came off the bench in a 3-0 defeat and played a back pass straight to an opponent, leaving his future looking bleak.

Victor Lindelof helped his mother in her difficult days as a single parent in Sweden

Victor Lindelof helped his mother in her difficult days as a single parent in Sweden

When the TV pundits weighed in,  he knew he had overcome greater challenges in life

When the TV pundits weighed in,  he knew he had overcome greater challenges in life

Back then, was it really easy to ignore all the noise, especially with his manager bemoaning his lack of defensive alternatives?

'Look, I will be always grateful to Jose,' said Lindelof. 'He bought me. I have nothing bad to say about him. When he wanted to buy other defenders, it was OK. I like the competition. You don't improve without it.

'I am lucky. I am mentally strong and can shut it all out. You want things to go well at a new club but life isn't that easy. So if you play badly you have to work more.'

Partly because of his form at last summer's World Cup, Lindelof was voted the best Swedish player of 2018 and he is humbled by it. Growing up, he wasn't even the best player in his group of friends in the Swedish city of Vasteras. That was Linus Sjoberg, a midfielder eventually handed a trial by United at the age of 15.

Now, almost a decade on, Sjoberg — best man at Lindelof's to Maja last year — is recovering from the latest in a series of ruinous injuries and playing in the Swedish second division.

'He was the best in Sweden,' sighed Lindelof with clear sadness. 'We played together from the age of six, but he has had surgery on his knee three times, his foot two times and then last week he got injured again. I have helped with a physio.

'It makes me wake up every day and be grateful for the opportunity to represent this club. I will never take it for granted after what happened to Linus.' 

When Jose Mourinho said he needed new defenders, the Swede told himself to try harder

When Jose Mourinho said he needed new defenders, the Swede told himself to try harder

As United surge forwards on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s watch, Lindelof is at the heart of it

As United surge forwards on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's watch, Lindelof is at the heart of it

In Sweden, they still talk of another player, of course, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to talk back. Ibrahimovic was still at United when Lindelof arrived and recently offered some typically confident views on the defender.

'He had a difficult time at United at the beginning,' said Ibrahimovic. 'It is typically Swedish to arrive and be friendly to everyone. I told him, "You're here to survive, not to be friendly. So you need to perform". He has been doing good lately. I don't think it's a question of ability, it's in the head.'

Listening to his former team-mate's words, Lindelof looks a little baffled. 'He did talk to me but didn't say exactly that,' he smiled. 'But he likes to give good quotes, doesn't he? Yeah I am Swedish and a nice person. There is nothing wrong with that. I like to treat people with respect. That's how I was raised.

'On the pitch, yeah, maybe I could have been a bit more myself at the start. But in the beginning, the way I am off the pitch I like to be more quiet and see what kind of people I am with and then make judgment. But Zlatan and I get on well because we can both have opinions. It's good.'

Because of his form at the World Cup, Lindelof was voted the best Swedish player of 2018

Because of his form at the World Cup, Lindelof was voted the best Swedish player of 2018

The defender has started 13 of Solskjaer's 15 games since replacing Mourinho in December

The defender has started 13 of Solskjaer's 15 games since replacing Mourinho in December

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