Victor Lindelof vowed to keep sacrificing himself for the team after gritting his teeth to “play through the pain” and help Manchester United maintain their title push with a stunning win against rivals Leeds.
Things could have unraveled after this month’s crushing Champions League exit, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have reacted well by drawing with neighbours Manchester City before coming back to win at Sheffield United on Thursday.
United went onto produce an eye-catching 6-2 win against bitter rivals Leeds, with Sunday’s victory propelling the side up to third in the Premier League and within five points of leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Talk is growing over a first sustained title push since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as champion in 2013 and Lindelof pointed to growing confidence within the dressing room.
“The most important thing for us is that we’re focusing on one game at a time and that’s what we’ve been doing lately,” United defender Lindelof told the PA news agency.
“I think we have been performing good and also we have got some good results.
“I think the main thing for us is just to keep working hard, keep focusing on the next game and that’s the thing.
“But obviously when you win games you gain more confidence and that’s what we’ve been doing lately.”
Put to Lindelof that there seems to a stronger winning mentality this season, he said: “That’s how we want to approach the game. We always want to win. We never want to stop.
“I think today as well it was 4-1 going into half-time and then we knew still Leeds wouldn’t stop running and stop fighting.
“I think today, especially in the second half, we showed again the right mentality to keep on doing the things we know we can do.
“I am very pleased with the performance and the mentality as always was amazing today as well.”
The collective attitude is boosted by the kind of individual character shown by Lindelof.
Already having to contend with a nagging back issue, the Sweden defender could easily have missed the Leeds game after taking a blow to the knee in Thursday’s 3-2 win at Sheffield United.
“It’s been tough,” Lindelof said. “I’ve been struggling a lot with my back over the past couple of months, so it’s very important for me to do the treatment and recovery right.
“And then against Sheffield, I got a bad knock on my knee so I was 50-50 for this game, but I managed to go out there and play even though I had pain.
“I just want to help the team and I’m happy that we got the win today.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit but I managed to play through the pain today.”
Lindelof’s determination to be involved was rewarded by a rare goal in a wild first half in which Scott McTominay’s early brace set the tone.
Bruno Fernandes also grabbed a pair and Daniel James found the net in a game Solskjaer said could have ended 12-4.
“Obviously it was a good game,” Lindelof said. “We managed to score six goals and I think we could have scored some more.
“But overall a good performance and a good result for us.
“We knew that Leeds run a lot and we knew the start was going to be important for us.
“They’re always working hard so to get two goals early on in the game was important and obviously the start we wanted to have.”
United will look to continue their fine form when they take on Everton in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.
“At this club you always want to win stuff so it’s an important game coming up on Wednesday for us,” Lindelof said, having reached three cup semi-finals last season.
“Games come quick now so you just have to do the recovery right and be prepared for every game.
“But I think the depth we have in the squad is also very important for us going into this period of games.
“But, like I say, we want to win things, obviously, and every opportunity we get we want to win and to improve.”
There is no midweek cup action for Leeds, who will be stewing on the heavy Old Trafford defeat over Christmas.
Stuart Dallas, who scored a late stunner on Sunday, said: “We’ve got to bounce back.
“We’ve got to learn from this, because I don’t think there are too many positives we can take from this, there is plenty we can learn from.
“I suppose the only positive we can take is that we kept going until the very end.”