There was much speculation as to the role Daley Blind would play when he made his £14 million move to Old Trafford. Would he play left back as he had for Louis van Gaal in the World Cup? Or would Blind occupy a spot in midfield? Blind put in a brilliant early performance against Queens Park Rangers at the base of a midfield diamond that seemed to solidify his position in the team.
Team and individual injuries, however, caused Blind to be shifted around and miss games. He subsequently appeared as a left back before returning to the base of the midfield. Blind also took a few weeks to adjust to the pace and quickness of the Premier League. In a recent interview with Inside United, Blind said:
“The biggest difference is the Premier League is played at a much higher tempo…I noticed the difference and was a little tired.”
Blind also compared the tempo to playing in Holland. He pointed out that there were periods of play in his home country where teams relaxed and simply kept the ball. Any avid Premier League watcher is aware that relaxing in the Premier League can be suicidal. Blind, nonetheless, has settled well and scored two crucial goals against West Brom and West Ham while controlling the tempo in the same manner as Michael Carrick.
This brings us to Blind’s future place at the club. Some supporters believe Blind is too slow for United and should be only used as a squad player or solid presence in the back. It is my belief, however, that the Dutchman can be exactly the type of player United need when they are at their best.
Hypothetically, the United side should overwhelm other teams with pace. Angel Di Maria, Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Rafael da Silva, and Adnan Januzaj are all options to play on the flanks or in a different capacity depending on the opponent. At their best, this amount of pace can prove a match-winner.
With pace on the wings, stability and a rock are needed in midfield. Now Blind will never be the midfield rock in the sense of Roy Keane or a midfield genius in the sense of Paul Scholes. If paired with the correct midfield partner though, Blind is the perfect central midfielder.
If playing with Ander Herrera, Blind can easily combine with the Spaniard to work for a decisive pass that will split open the defense. Herrera has impressed each time he has made an appearance and looks to be gaining a permanent spot in Van Gaal’s starting eleven. For the rest of the season, a successful partnership of Herrera and Blind with wingers may be the key to seeing off rivals for a top four spot.
In the coming summer transfer window, United may yet buy a player such as Paul Pogba or Kevin Strootman. Blind can also be successful when paired with a more box-to-box, dominant midfielder. Blind keeps the ball in a quiet fashion, allowing the more powerful presence to grab the headlines.
The summer transfer window, however, is a long way off. For now, United must make do with what they have to compete for the top four. In a season in which United has had numerous chances to monopolize their top four spot, Van Gaal’s side nonetheless find themselves facing a tough run of fixtures with a top four spot by no means guaranteed. Blind’s calming presence in midfield, coupled with Herrera’s decisive passing may be exactly what United need.
This article was researched and written by Nathan Kanuch. You can follow him on Twitter.