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'Ice Man' Lindelof is highly regarded as he prepares to join Manchester United

So what are Manchester United getting in 22-year-old central defender, Victor Lindelof? The Swedish international will sign for a €35 million fee from Benfica, subject to personal terms being agreed and a successful medical in Manchester this week. Lindelof is expected to play for his country in a friendly against Norway in Oslo on Tuesday night.

Among his teammates and staff at Benfica, he is known as "Ice Man" for never showing any sign of feeling pressure. He's been at the Lisbon club since 2012 but only fully established himself as a first teamer in early 2016, before winning the league and cup double and playing over 4,000 minutes in 47 games in the season that just ended.

One of the main aspects of Benfica's business model is based on giving emerging talents first-team football at an age where they'd struggle to play at the biggest, richest clubs in Europe. And yet, in many ways they are a super club, boasting average crowds over 50,000, Champions League football every season and one of the most trophy-laden histories in football.

United first made contact regarding Lindelof last December and Jorge Mendes, the agent trusted implicitly by Benfica, acted as the negotiator, even though he is not the player's agent. No deal was agreed but Lindelof was made aware of United's interest and performed well in the second half of the season.

The view is equally positive in his home country, where he's viewed as the leader of the Swedish national team for the next decade and the country's best player after Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That evaluation has been reached since his role in Benfica's success and interest from United; Lindelof was only on the bench when Sweden's Under-21s won the 2015 European championship.

"He came into that squad as the reserve right-back," recalls Bojan Djordic, a former Swedish midfielder, who played for United and watches them regularly in his capacity as a television commentator. "He wasn't even in the initial squad. He'd left third-tier club Vasteras to join Benfica B. Swedish people didn't track him because he wasn't in a first team or at a big club. He fell off the radar.

"He had a chance at right-back for the Under-21s and he was unbelievable. He was physically strong, he had good vision, he could bring the ball out," Djordic continues. "But Benfica gave him more confidence and he shows that in his game. Playing for their first team helped, as did playing Champions League football for a great, huge club. They have a record of producing great players and selling them to the biggest clubs every year. For him to be a regular in that side showed his quality."

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Lindelof is also known in Sweden for his girlfriend Maja, who enjoys posting all of his shortcomings on social media.

"She posts pictures of eating the same processed/packet food for three days and tagging it‪ #waglife‪ and #glamour," says Swedish journalist Johanna Frändén. "The pair of them seem very down to earth."

Lindelof's huge transfer fee, which eclipses what United paid for Rio Ferdinand and Eric Bailly, means he's not been bought to play as a reserve.

"I can see him with Eric Bailly in the centre of the defence," Djordic says. "They're young and very talented and Jose Mourinho has exceptional contacts in Portugal. I can understand why some United supporters maybe wanted a bigger name, but they also have to accept that United are not as attractive as they once were. United finished sixth last season, it's hard to attract the very, very best for a fair price. Champions League football will help, but fans need to be patient and the club have to continue to rebuild slowly. United are still in transition."

As well as Bailly, United also have Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind, who can play in central defence. While they need more than two central defenders, they don't need six.

"As I former pro, I found Mourinho's comments about Chris Smalling and Phil Jones very interesting," says Djordic. "It was clear he had doubts about them. Maybe Victor will need some time to adapt but I've watched him play for Sweden in France and he needed no time to adapt. It's not like he's competing with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic either."

"He's a fast, has a great anticipation," says Portuguese journalist João Silva Neves of Lindelof. "He's got very good concentration and he's good at free kicks, but he needs to improve on his tackling as he can be a bit imprudent. He's very good at marking forwards, he's got the strength that will be perfect for England and I like him a lot, not least because of his 100 perfect work rate and stamina. He needs improvement, but I think Jose is going to take good care of him."

Benfica have given him their seal of approval and sources at the club describe a "quiet, humble and intelligent" man, though he did so well for them that they're perhaps more predisposed to speak well and wish him every success. United fans will wish the same for their new defender.

Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.


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