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Manchester United’s Plan B: Daley Blind

Daley Blind’s Manchester United role has been in a state of flux for the vast majority of his time with the club. He’s been on the receiving end of a fair amount of criticism, with moments of heightened disapproval after a few particularly poor performances. Yet, he’s simultaneously retained a group of loyal supporters that come to his defense during these times. In fairness, it’s easy to see both sides of the coin on this one. The initial catalyst for transition to the United back line was born out necessity in the midst of an injury crisis. But therein lies the root of the dilemma, he was always viewed as a temporary patch rather than a decisive starter. Regardless of positioning, the only constant is that he’s never truly been viewed as a first choice – but when we need him, he’s always there.

From a numbers perspective, he’s been fairly consistent. In 83 appearances, he’s had an overall tackle success rate of 72%. Say what you will about Louis van Gaal’s tactical approach but our defense during that period was a stronghold for the most part. A big part of this was due to the versatility of Daley Blind to fill in at three different positions on the pitch.

In a Louis van Gaal lineup, Blind was a logical choice, with possession being the main focus and his skill with the ball at his feet. With a strong left foot, he was also called on to fill in at left-back, which was met with mixed reviews.  The majority of the criticism he’s received revolves around his slow reaction time at points. Others might say he’s not physical enough and, against more formidable attacking sides, is prone to being overrun on a quick change of play or counter-attack.

The typical rebuttals in support of Blind lend to the fact that he’s been playing out of position for years and should be included in the holding midfielder conversation. Now that United has shored up their defense with the likes of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling as well, it seems unlikely for Blind to fit in there anymore. With Luke Shaw the ideal choice in the eyes of supporters, if he again loses the favor of José Mourinho, Blind may just be the man to turn to at left-back again. After all, I don’t think anyone expected to see Blind line up next to Bailly in United’s first match of the 2016/17 season so he’s clearly been able to show his worth in training. Mourinho has shown more faith in him than other players, though it still seems unlikely that he’ll tally the same amount of minutes into next season.

Daley Blind is a player every manager wishes he had. He doesn’t voice his frustration at being bounced around, he continuously vocalises his support for incoming players and the benefit of added competition, and he’s someone you know you can turn to in a time of need. Though he may not go down as an Old Trafford legend, his value to the squad whenever called upon is unquestionable.

Written by Devin Healy

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