A laid-back farewell? Lindelof coasts through potential last Benfica game
Wednesday's Primeira Liga clash between Benfica and Rio Ave could prove to be Victor Lindelof's last game in Portugal. The Sweden international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in January, and as the curtain drew on a 2-0 win he embraced team-mates and looked to the stands at the Estadio da Luz in an apparent farewell gesture.
Perhaps appropriately enough, a muted 90 minutes in Lisbon even had the feeling of a testimonial game as Benfica kept their hold on the Primeira summit with a straightforward victory.
Playing alongside grizzled Luisao as the left side of the Portuguese champions' centre-back pairing, Lindelof played a slightly more advanced role than his captain, who swept up Rio Ave's rare incursions into Aguila dangerzone.
Neither Benfica nor their star defender were unduly troubled in the game, as the visitors only managed their first shot on target as the clock ticked towards the hour mark. But nevertheless there was plenty on display to encourage Manchester United fans who may have tuned in to see their potential new signing.
Lindelof formed a crucial part of the central axis that got Benfica firing on Wednesday, albeit on an intermittent basis. He completed 91 per cent of his 56 passes, a ratio only bettered by the workhorse Ljubomir Fejsa in midfield, and made sure the ball was constantly in movement to keep Rio Ave on the back foot.
He, Fejsa and Pizzi, who saw red in the final seconds for time wasting, were the heart of the Portuguese side's possession game, and this control suffocated the away side. When Rio Ave did have the ball Lindelof was the cerebral foil to Luisao's more frontal game, swooping in to make a team-high four interceptions.
Notably, in a game that witnessed 39 fouls the Swede was not responsible for a single infraction. It appears he will be competing directly with Marcos Rojo for a spot in the heart of United's defence; if so, manager Jose Mourinho will be heartened to see a restraint and timing in the tackle sometimes absent when the rash Argentine moves in for the kill.
A routine win over Rio Ave barely saw Lindelof break sweat, and far tougher challenges lie ahead whether he moves to United or stays put in Lisbon. But the defender did exactly what was required of him in an accomplished 90 minutes, and promises to be a fine investment at Old Trafford as a 22-year-old prospect with a maturity that belies his tender age.