Victor Lindelof is not a guaranteed starter for Manchester United and faces fierce competition for places, says Gary Pallister.
The Red Devils made the Sweden international their first signing of the summer transfer window back in June, with a £40 million deal put in place with Benfica.
He has been eased into the fold during pre-season, with Jose Mourinho eager to get minutes under his belt and help smooth the transition into English football.
With such a hefty price tag around his neck, Lindelof will be expected to take up a position alongside another big-money sign in the form of Eric Bailly when both men are fit and available.
The 23-year-old has, however, been warned that he cannot take such a standing for granted, with Pallister, speaking to exclusively to 888sport, saying: “With the amount of games United will be facing next year everybody is going to play a certain amount.
“Maybe Lindelof has been brought in as first choice but that’s not always the case. Chris [Smalling] or Phil [Jones] can put in performances and that changes.
“We saw that with [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan where it took five months before he got into the first team and proving himself on a regular basis. Who is to say that won’t happen with Lindelof?
“It’s not just about how you play but how you are in training and around the place. Smalling and Jones are both England centre-halves and when they came back towards the latter half of last season they had to prove themselves and did well. They never sulked and took the criticism on board.”
Former United centre-half Pallister added: “I’ve not seen an awful lot of Lindelof but I’m hearing reports that he’s a top quality centre-half and you need strength and depth to any squad, and there were question marks over Smalling and Jones last year and Jose felt he wanted another defender.
“It just makes the competition for places even harder for the English players in the side and the problem both Smalling and Jones have had throughout their careers is they have been blighted by injuries. That’s why Jose has gone out and bought.”
While understanding why Mourinho dipped back into the transfer market for defensive reinforcements, Pallister believes that the arrival of Lindelof completes that particular puzzle and leaves United well stocked heading into the 2017-18 campaign.
He said: “They’ve brought in a new defender in Lindelof and when you add him to Bailly it looks very good.
“They’ve also got [Marcos] Rojo in there who came to the fore last year and was terrific until he suffered a serious knee injury. Then you also have Smalling and Jones who have a lot to prove.
“It looks like we’re keeping [David] De Gea which is great because we’ve seen in the past how difficult it is to replace top quality goalkeepers - it took us a long time to replace Peter Schmeichel when he left the club.
“[Antonio] Valencia has come on leaps and bounds and his outstanding performances led to Jose calling him one of the best right-backs in the world.
“The only question mark is at left-back. [Luke] Shaw has had injury problems and he’s found it hard to catch the manger’s eye. Jose was quite tough on him last season. Then there’s [Matteo] Darmian who is a right-back playing at left-back.
“Overall though we have a lot of the bases covered and there’s a lot of quality in there.”
Read the full 888sport interview with Gary Pallister, including his thoughts on which club made the best signing of the transfer window.