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Daley Blind leaves Manchester United for Ajax on a four-year deal

Daley Blind has left Manchester United for a return to Ajax, four years after making the move from his hometown club. United signed Blind for £13.8 million in the summer of 2014, with United then being managed by Louis van Gaal. Blind was a good signing at the time, based on the fact he could play as a left-back, a left wing-back, a central defender or even a defensive midfielder. The 28-year-old made a total of 141 appearances for United, starting 132 times and coming off the bench nine times, scoring six goals for his club.

Blind made his debut on the 14 September 2014 with United beating Queens Park Rangers 4-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League. His first goal for his club came just over a month later in a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns with the Dutchman scoring the goal which earned a point for United, three minutes from time. He scored his United second goal that season, against West Ham United at Upton Park, a 92nd-minute equaliser, earning another point for United on the road.

The following season (2015/16), Blind scored two more goals; the opening goal in the 3-1 Premier League victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford and the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Derby County at Pride Park in the fourth round of the FA Cup. During the 2016/17 season, Blind scored once, the opening goal in the 3-1 Premier League victory over Sunderland at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, the same match that Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored his scorpion kick goal. Blind scored his last United goal against Benfica in the UEFA Champions League last season.

During his short career at United, Blind has achieved a lot. Under Louis van Gaal, United won the Emirates FA Cup, beating Crystal Palace at Wembley at the end of the 2015/16 season, Blind’s second season at the club. With Van Gaal being sacked shortly after that victory, which brought the club their first major honour post-Sir Alex Ferguson, paving the way for Jose Mourinho to become the new manager. In Mourinho’s first season, not only did United win the FA Community Shield, but the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League were won.

Blind was a crucial player in the Europa League final in Stockholm, Sweden, against his former club, now current club. The Dutchman is a player that had many supporters at the club, myself included. Last season, he made 17 appearances in all competitions, 14 as a starting player, scoring once. For a player of his capabilities, it was not enough and despite his contract being extended by a further year, which was an option from his original contract, it was clear the player would seek an exit from the club.

Ajax has signed a player who they already trust to deliver for the club. A player, who despite already having a lot of experience before leaving four years ago, returns with even more. Blind will be missed at the Old Trafford club but if a player is not in the plans of the manager, keeping them would in effect be pointless. It was reported on Monday that Blind had met up with Ajax at St George’s Park, whilst on their training camp this summer with United confirming that the player was on the move on Monday evening, confirming the departure today.

Using his Facebook and Twitter accounts to pay respect to the Old Trafford club, his teammates, the manager, coaches and more importantly, the supporters, Blind gave a statement of thanks for his incredible time at the club which resulted in him winning four trophies, three of them being major honours. The Dutchman said:

“First of all, I want to say how proud I am to be a part of the Manchester United family. To play for the biggest club in the world with such a history meant a lot to me. I had four great years with four trophies!

“I want to thank everyone, the Managers, coaches, the medical department, everyone who helped me to settle in so quick at the beginning, of course, my teammates and last but definitely not least the fans! I want to thank you for all the love and support I received and still get.

“I will never forget some of the special games and moments, I will miss you ‘The Theatre of Dreams’! But now its time to go home.”

Ajax, in the United Kingdom as part of their pre-season tour, made the announcement in a tremendous way, using the Three Lions song to announce; ‘He’s coming home, he’s coming home, he’s coming, Daley’s coming home’. You can see the video embedded below. Blind has signed a four-year contract with his former club, with a transfer fee being confirmed as €16 million. Ajax will play both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Walsall on Thursday, ahead of their UEFA Champions League qualifier against Sturm Graz with a home friendly against Konyaspor sandwiched in between.

Manchester United and Ajax reach ‘verbal agreement’ for the transfer of Daley Blind

Manchester United defender Daley Blind is set to become the most expensive player at Ajax with a possible £18.5 million deal which will see the Dutchman return to the club United signed him from in the summer of 2014. United will head to the United States of America on Sunday and it is expected that a deal could be sorted out which will see the 28-year-old say goodbye to his teammates and return to the club it all started for him.

It has been widely reported over the last few weeks and months that Blind was destined to leave the Theatre of Dreams this summer, despite the fact the extra year in his contract was activated during the past season, meaning that United did not see a player, who cost them £13.8 million four years ago, leave as a free agent. The fee to be paid by Ajax will be £14 million, just £200,000 more than United paid for the player, with £4.5 million in add-ons.

When Blind arrived at United four years ago, under the management of Louis van Gaal, the clubs supporters were excited because he was a utilitarian player, predominantly playing in a left-back or left wing-back role, but could also play in central defensive positions, which he had been doing, also adapting to a defensive midfield role, which is a position he had not played much football in at United. Some even suggested he could have been a comparable replacement for Michael Carrick, when he retired, which happened this summer.

Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf has reported that both United and Ajax have a ‘verbal agreement’ which would see Blind return to his native Netherlands this summer. It is expected that the 28-year-old will sign a four-year contract with the Eredivisie runners-up. Blind made 141 appearances at United, scoring six goals in his four years at the club, winning the Emirates FA Cup, FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League in his time at the club.

Blind will be remembered for his time at United. It is never a good thing seeing a capable player leaving the club but he was not being used as much as he should have been, which is something he will get at his former club. Whilst playing for Ajax, Blind won the Eredivisie four times, also winning the Johan Cruijff Shield on one occasion. Blind played 143 times, scoring three goals for Ajax in seven seasons at the club, which looks set to continue until possibly his retirement from the game.

Daley Blind agrees terms with Ajax; Manchester United want €17 million this summer…

Manchester United defender Daley Blind has reportedly agreed terms with Ajax ahead of a move back to the Amsterdam club. The reports which come from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, which is something that has been reported for the past five days or so. United are reportedly wanting €17 million for Blind to leave the club this summer. His contract would have expired this summer but United activated the one-year clause in the contract, keeping him at the club until next summer, presumably in order to receive a fee for him this year.

On the 2nd July, Sport Witness reported, from De Telegraaf, that Ajax were interested in re-signing the 28-year-old this summer. It was a big story in the Dutch newspaper that day with reports carried on the front page of the paper. Ajax recently sold Justin Kluivert to Roma, signing Dusan Tadic from Southampton earlier in the summer. It was suggested that Blind had told United that he wanted to return to Ajax this summer and his request was heard by the club. However, his exit will be on their terms, not his or Ajax’s.

Blind would have to take a pay cut to leave United, he knows that and will seemingly do that in order to return and play football. The player has been out of Jose Mourinho’s plans for a year now and is not likely to play himself back into them. Blind was an exciting signing four years ago and one who was seen as a utilitarian, being that he could play in the centre of defence, as a left-back, a left-wing-back, or even in a central defensive midfield role. However, the landscape at United has changed since then, seeing Louis van Gaal being sacked and Mourinho replacing him.

On Friday, The Sun carried an article about Blind, which was more negative in the view of United which seemed to suggest that the Old Trafford club adding the one-year clause onto Blind’s contract would cost them nearly £5 million. It is not the first time that the newspaper has been negatively reporting things related to Manchester United. It won’t be the last time either. United stories are the bread and butter of this newspaper and many others. It is like nobody wants to read about any other club.

So far this summer, United have only let one experienced player leave and that is Sam Johnstone, who signed for West Bromwich Albion earlier in the week with United signing Lee Grant from Stoke City to be the third choice goalkeeper for the club, with Joel Pereira expected to leave the club on loan for the upcoming season. United will want to get rid of both Blind and Matteo Darmian with reports going in favour of both players leaving this summer, also going against – these journalists have to cover every eventuality so they can say they were right!

Daley Blind refuses to rule out a return to Ajax this summer

Manchester United defender Daley Blind has refused to rule out a return to Ajax this summer. The 28-year-old is expected to leave the Old Trafford club this summer after entering the final year of his contract. The Dutchman arrived in the summer of 2014, Louis van Gaal’s first summer transfer window which saw the club sign Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, and Radamel Falcao on loan. Blind was signed from Ajax for £13.8 million.

Earlier in the week, it was reported that the Dutch club would be interested in re-signing the 28-year-old this summer, four years after leaving the club. Ajax have recently sold Justin Kluivert to Roma so have the money to make new acquisitions this summer. Speaking about a possible return to the Amsterdam Arena, Blind, speaking to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, said:

“I cannot say much about it, but everyone knows what I think about Ajax.”

Blind has grown up at the Dutch club, joining at the age of five and seeing his father, former Netherlands manager Danny Blind win the UEFA Champions League with the club in 1995, led by Van Gaal at the time. The club obviously plays a big part in the life of the player, who saw United beat his former club in the final of the UEFA Europa League in Sweden just over a year ago. It has been suggested by the Manchester Evening News that United are reluctant to make a loss on Blind, even after playing just 360 minutes of football last season.

United will have to ensure that incoming players are all signed before the transfer window closes this summer on the 9th August but in order to sell players, with other transfer windows remaining open for the rest of August, United will need to ensure those who want to leave will be gone before the window slams shut on the 31st August. Currently, both Blind and Matteo Darmian are expected to leave the Theatre of Dreams this summer with Darmian suggesting one of three Italian clubs could sign him this summer.

It is also suggested by the newspaper which is local to Manchester that the inability of United to see both Blind and Darmian leave so far this summer has affected their attempts to sign a new left-back this summer with Juventus’ Alex Sandro a player who was hotly tipped to make the move to the Old Trafford this summer, even despite the fee of €60 million the Italian club has placed on the Brazil international, who was not picked as part of the squad for the FIFA World Cup this summer.

Blind will be able to look back at his time at United as a success in the fact that he helped the club win the Emirates FA Cup in 2016 under Van Gaal, also winning the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup, and the UEFA Europa League the following season. To date, Blind has made a total of 141 appearances for United, scoring six goals.

Daley Blind targeted by Inter Milan again this summer, a good move for the Dutchman

Manchester United defender Daley Blind could be a target for Inter Milan this summer, according to reports. The Serie A side are apparently seeking a left-sided defender this summer with the versatile Dutchman on the wish list. The 28-year-old was pursued by Inter during the January transfer window but United would not let the player leave as, at the time, it would have caused an imbalance with a number of defenders on the sidelines at the time of the reported interest.

It has been suggested that Blind could be surplus to requirements this summer after him spending the majority of the season as a mere spectator, despite starting the first three Premier League matches of the season. Blind made just 17 appearances this season, which shows that Mourinho does not see him as a player that could solve problems for the Old Trafford club. Gazzetta dello Sport stated that scouts from Inter would be present in Turin on Monday evening where the Netherlands has a friendly against Italy, which ended 1-1 with Blind playing 78 minutes in defence.

Inter manager Luciano Spalletti has money to spend this summer after qualifying for the UEFA Champions League after beating Lazio on the final day of the Serie A season, already signing Blind’s compatriot Stefan de Vrij from the club Inter beat on the final day of the season. I had high expectations for Blind when he signed for United in the summer of 2014 with United then led by Louis van Gaal. Having a player such as Blind, a utilitarian, was going to be good for the club as not only could he play on the left side of defence, a central defensive role and a midfield role were in his locker.

The Dutchman has another year on his contract at the Old Trafford club and admitted that he would consider his future at the Theatre of Dreams after not making the final 18-man squad for the Emirates FA Cup final late last month, which Chelsea won. Speaking to De Telegraaf in the Netherlands after the Wembley defeat, he said:

“United is a nice big club. Of course, there is a lot of competition there. I am still under contract for another year. I certainly will not make a panic transfer because it is not guaranteed that I will play at a new club. We have to wait, but it seems logical that I wasn’t satisfied with the second half of the season. So first I’ll go on vacation and then put all the possibilities next to each other.”

There are some big changes coming for United with many fringe players linked with a departure from the club. Matteo Darmian is expected to be confirmed as a Juventus player at some stage this summer with speculation hotting up that he has undergone a medical in Italy ahead of a move being confirmed. It was suggested that United were seeking €20 million for the player with Juventus offering a smaller fee, so there may need to be a full agreement before anything else materialises.

United will need to ensure the business they conduct this summer is the best business they have done with Mourinho in charge. His signings have been signings that have boosted the morale of the clubs supporters, for a short time anyway. The playing style will need to become more attacking but with Fred seemingly close to being confirmed as a United player and Diogo Dalot also in line to become a new United player, that solves two problems that were left in the squad.

Mourinho having a strong midfield plus a defence with is much stronger, with some players deemed incapable of doing the tough job a defender should be doing, some of those the more experienced players in the squad, ones who have not only played for Sir Alex Ferguson, but have also endured the difficult David Moyes season, the Ryan Giggs month, Louis van Gaal’s philosophy and now the project led by Mourinho. Having a leader at the back would solve some problems at the back, as would fullbacks who actually provide something of worth.

Does Daley Blind still have a future at Manchester United

Starting his career at Ajax, Daley Blind worked his way to the top of the Dutch game winning the Dutch Footballer of the year award in the 2013/14 season. Before going on to put in a string of good performances for the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup and helping the soon to be Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal claim third place.

With the incoming United boss clearly impressed by Blind’s form, he was soon signed for United in September 2014. Although being brought in initially to play as wingback, with then-United manager Van Gaal hoping to implement a new style of football at the club, the Dutchman was used in a number of different positions in his first season, starting several games at left back and being used predominantly as a defensive midfielder. Blind’s intelligence and versatility served as a great asset in his first season at the club, going on to make 29 appearances.

It was the following season however that Blind really started to show the form he demonstrated at Ajax and at the World Cup, playing primarily as a centre-back. With the Dutchman quickly becoming a mainstay in the side and establishing a strong defensive partnership with fellow defender Chris Smalling.  Blind showed great composer on the ball, had an eye for a pass and went to make more appearances than any of his teammates, managing 56 in total and helping United keep 25 clean sheets in all competitions. In the Premier League, Blind made 35 appearances for the club, had a tackle success rate of 71% and averaged 58 passes a game.

However, since the arrival of current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, Blind has struggled for consistency and game time.

Last season Blind made 39 appearances for the club, starting the Europa League final against his former club Ajax and helped lead United to victory. Yet after a strong start to the season, the Dutchman lost his place to the in-form Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, making only 23 Premier League appearances, 11 less than the previous campaign.

This season the Dutchman’s game time has been even more limited and has found himself becoming very much a fringe player, managing only seven Premier League appearances.

Blind lack of game time has led to much speculation around his future and in recent weeks he’s been linked with a move away from United in the summer. Yet despite the persistent media speculation around Blind’s future at the club, United recently triggered a one-year contract extension in the Dutchman’s contract.

At the start of May in his pre-Brighton press conference, Jose Mourinho when asked about the future of Blind and fellow defender Matteo Darmian, that he would like to keep the pair at the club, stating;

“They are part of my plans.”

It’s clear that if Blind is willing to stay next season, such an intelligent and versatile player like him can be a brilliant squad player for Manchester United going forward. At the age of 28, however, Blind might not fancy sitting on the sidelines and may want to seek a move away from the club in search of more regular first-team football.  Yet regardless of whether he wants to stay or go, Daley Blind has always put a shift in when wearing a United shirt and has been a great servant for the club.

Written by Jamie Mackinlay

Why Daley Blind remains a key player for Manchester United this season

This season for Daley Blind was always going to important one as he entered the final year of his contract at Old Trafford. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really gone according to plan. He has not been able to hold down a place in the United side apart from appearances in the Champions League and domestic cups where Mourinho has been resting players.

It is something that even led to the Dutchman’s future being thrown into doubt over the recent transfer window. Roma were said to be in the hot seat to sign the 27-year-old but only wanted to sign him on loan, whereas United were only willing to let him go on a permanent basis. Eventually, he stayed at Old Trafford, at least until the end of the season, but he can be a real asset both on and off the field, so him staying could turn out to be a real blessing.

When the Dutchman arrived in Manchester back in 2014, he arrived as a man who had just helped his national country, Netherlands, claim third place at the World Cup, where he starred underneath the leadership of incoming United boss Louis van Gaal. He was brought in at United to act predominantly as a wing-back, as Van Gaal was looking to enforce a new style, but for much of the season, he was used as a defensive midfielder. His utility and his versatility to play in a number of positions was a real asset to the team for the first few seasons.

However, it was his time spent in the centre of the defence that really caught the eye. He brought his skills to read the game and make tackles along with the ball playing abilities of a centre midfielder that made him very useful as a centre-back. He quickly established a partnership with Chris Smalling towards the end of the 2015/16 season and started last season strongly until he lost his place, to Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo.

The Dutchman has barely featured this season, much down to the form of the players who play in his position and the purchases of such players as Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic. That has limited the Dutchman to just five appearances in the league this season, at a time of his career where Blind should be hoping to be playing week in week out.

However, his versatility to play in a number of positions could prove to be of great importance towards the end of the season where injuries are inevitable, with the reds battling on three separate fronts. He will be able to cover at left-back, which has been a problem area for United this season, as well as centre-back and centre midfield.

He will also offer great experience and composure whilst playing alongside youngsters, like Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford. As well as versatility and experience he brings a winning mentality that will be vital when entering the later stages of competitions this season, as United attempt to secure trophies.

Whether the last few months of the season will be the last of Blind’s career at Old Trafford remains to be seen, but he will be a player who could prove to be a crucial squad player, and someone who I feel could still be an asset for Mourinho, for years to come.

Written by Dan Pearce

Everyone in the Manchester United squad has a part to play this month says Daley Blind

This season, Manchester United have claimed two wins, scored six goals – conceding none in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho’s side have started the season with a bang, determined to bring fortress Old Trafford back. In the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening, United kept that start to the season, scoring three goals, conceding none and therefore keeping their home winning run going this season. That needs to continue against Everton in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.

Daley Blind, United’s stand-in left-back with Luka Shaw having been on the sidelines and Marcos Rojo likely to remain on the sidelines for the next few months, has suggested that he and his teammates will be aiming for more of the same when Everton visit the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday, which could be more of a Theatre of Nightmares for the Merseyside club. Everton’s start to the season has not been great, most recently falling to three straight defeats against Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and Atalanta.

Wayne Rooney will return to Old Trafford, his home of thirteen years, which will be a good homecoming for the player, but once the match starts, he is just another Everton player trying to upset United, which may or may not happen for the Toffees. After three defeats, the Everton players must be hurting and wanting to get back to winning ways, but it is never that easy to exorcise that ghost. Blind has insisted that United’s confidence is high throughout the team and every member of the team has a very important part to play with United competing in three competitions this month.

Speaking in Sunday’s copy of the official Manchester United match day programme, United Review, Blind said:

“It’s not only about the 11 players but the whole the squad is trying to do their best and we are keeping each other sharp in the training sessions. That makes you better as a player and also as a team.

“We have a good squad and also, in the dressing room, everyone gets along with each other, there is a lot of banter and jokes but we are also serious when we need to be. We all know what we want to achieve and we need to show that throughout the season.”

United have been unbeaten for over a year at Old Trafford and they will be keen to keep that going which will help them keep the momentum they have got going this season. Manchester City pipped United to the top of the league with their 6-0 humiliation over Watford on Saturday afternoon and despite the three-point lead United’s bitter rivals have over them, there is also a four-goal difference with set City aside from United. Blind, speaking about United spirit of winning, concluded by saying:

“If you can keep going in the spirit of winning and getting good results, then that’s the best feeling there is. Like I said before, it’s so important that we have a big squad and everyone is ready to go on the pitch. We have to keep that feeling going, keep trusting each other and know that the team is strong whoever is playing.”

United need to keep up with their opposition, doing so will give them a chance to pounce when the opposition slip, as just like last season there will be times where United will see rival teams face each other. In the first Nissan Super Sunday clash, Chelsea, the current Premier League champions will go head to head with Arsenal in a London derby, the blues against the reds. United kick off just after that game, and with Chelsea in third place ahead of kick off, United could find themselves in the same position should Chelsea do what is necessary against their cross-city rivals. United will then need to beat Everton to return to second place, scoring goals aplenty to return to the summit in the Premier League.

Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Defence

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, moving onto the defenders.

Eric Bailly

The £30 million man who many did not know of when he arrived at Manchester United last summer. £30 million for an unknown many said. I remember the same criticisms when Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra rolled up at the Theatre of Dreams. The Ivorian was tipped to be one for the future by Jose Mourinho, but he turned into one for the now too. Bailly fits in at Manchester United like a hand into a glove. Did what was expected and showed the aggression needed to play at the back. Bailly has played in the right-back position too, but centrally he is much better. The arrival of Victor Lindelof this summer will be a big boost for Bailly, he will not have to be relied upon as much as he was during the past season, which is good for the player who will get some rest, but he will also form a partnership with the Swedish international, which could bode well for the club, securing the defence and pushing from the back, ensuring that late goals are not conceded, with United looking to turn their home draws into victories, which is important if the club wants to challenge in the Premier League next season, which will be a must.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 38

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 7, Red Cards: 2

Season Rating: 4/5

Phil Jones

This was the season Phil Jones was to return to his best, and at a point, it looked like he was getting there, then injury struck, again. Jones has been plagued with injury for almost all of his career at United, signing from Blackburn Rovers in 2011. Partnered with Marcos Rojo at a point over the last season, Jones was playing well, improving and impressing at times. There was still a long way to go, but at least he was heading in the right direction. Jones is the better option compared to Chris Smalling, in my opinion at least and if one was to leave this summer, I would give Jones another chance to show what he could do, making a decision at the end of the coming season. Mourinho likes Jones, injuries have been a problem, but this one saw those less serious. Jones has been at United for six years, Smalling seven, so allowing him the same amount of time could well prove to be a good decision. United need English players in the team and getting rid of both Jones and Smalling could well be a mistake.

Appearances: Premier League: 18, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 26

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Marcos Rojo

The Argentinian central defender was tipped to leave the Old Trafford club last summer, but he put his head down, concentrated on his football and became a resurgent player, partnering Phil Jones during part of the season, nicknamed RoJones, then forming a better partnership with Eric Bailly. Rojo earned his place on the team this season, and his place heading into next season. The fact he can play at left-back and in a more central role will be a big bonus. Victor Lindelof will add more competition for places, but with Rojo suffering a serious knee injury back in April, the fact that he probably will not play again in 2017 will see the Swedish international partner Bailly, forming a strong partnership, which will take a lot of work to break into for Rojo, but saying that it will give Mourinho another option at the back, as will Daley Blind. Rojo should remain at the Old Trafford club this summer, he is far too important to let go. Not that it is rumoured he will leave this summer, he can’t being that he is injured.

Appearances: Premier League: 21, Emirates FA Cup: 4, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 41

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling is a player who could well be sold this summer, which is what many would like to see. Under Louis van Gaal, the England international played well, and at a time was considered the best central defender at the club. Fast forward a year, that is no longer the case. Eric Bailly has that crown now, with Marcos Rojo also performing well under Mourinho, pushing the almost always injured pairing of Smalling and Phil Jones onto the sidelines, a place they have spent a lot of time over the past six or seven seasons. Smalling played well in the UEFA Europa League final against Ajax, which should not be suggested that he ended his season well. His was poor the majority of the time, criticised but his manager for not playing through the pain barrier, returning just at the right time after Bailly was ruled out of the final because he was sent off in the semi-final second leg. Smalling is not the guy that could replace Rio Ferdinand or even Nemanja Vidic. The arrival of Victor Lindelof could show him the door, here’s hoping. I am thankful for what Smalling has done at the club, but post-Sir Alex Ferguson, he has been a player who is yet to rise and lead the team, I not sure he could lead the team.

Appearances: Premier League: 18, Emirates FA Cup: 4, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 36

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 2

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 0, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Daley Blind

The Dutch international had a good second season at United, playing well as a central defensive player, rather than the left-back or even left-wing-back he had played in under Louis van Gaal. The player was paired with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly during the season, partnering Bailly for the last few weeks of the season after Rojo suffered a severe knee injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season and probably the rest of 2017. Blind may not be the best at what he does but he has the eye needed to play football, able to read the game well and do what is needed most of the time. Blind should remain at the club this coming summer, as he is an option. With Mourinho signing Victor Lindelof, which should go through this coming week, Bailly will have a partner for much of United’s matches, but the pair will also be split up in times where United will need to rotate, which will be for much of the season with United back in the Champions League and fighting on three domestic fronts.

Appearances: Premier League: 24, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 40

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 4, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw has not had a great time at Manchester United. His first season was plagued by injury and a lack of fitness stopping him from breaking into the team. After the dust settled, the new season came with Shaw putting in extra training to get ready, starting well. A double leg fracture ended his season just over a month in, which devastated the player. Shaw was ready to start his third season, this time under a new manager, Jose Mourinho. The supporters were raring for Shaw to have a good season, but that was not going to be the case. Injuries, lack of form and problems with his fitness and mentality plagued his season. Shaw eventually got his chance to make his manager happy, doing well but suffering a new injury, which saw him end the season on crutches, something which will also see him miss pre-season and quite possibly a chance to secure his place at left-back at the start of the new season, especially with the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Joe Riley and Demetri Mitchell waiting in the wings, which could add more disappointment to Shaw’s United career, but he is young and talented enough to persevere and break through, providing he can avoid injury, which has been the main thing he has suffered since signing for Manchester United.

Appearances: Premier League: 11, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 4, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 19

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Timothy Fosu-Mensah really should have played more during the last season, making a total of eleven appearances across all competitions. I am not sure what his favoured position is, whether it be at right-back, playing second fiddle to Antonio Valencia, or as a defensive midfielder, possibly the replacement for Michael Carrick, who signed a new contract in the last few weeks. The Dutch international certainly has a good future ahead of him. I am sure United and Mourinho will have plans for the youngster, who did not play any U23 football last season, seemingly earmarked to get him ready for the next season, which is hopefully the case. The player is good at what he does, he is already a fans favourite. A loan spell could well be coming for him, but I would like to see him remain at United and utilised in whatever position he wants to play in, seeing him rise through the first team and cement a starting place. Him, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera in a midfield three could be something to salivate in the years to come.

Appearances: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 4, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Antonio Valencia

For me the Ecuadorian was the Player of the Season for Manchester United, something thought by his peers as he was awarded the Player’s Player of the Season, but Ander Herrera was chosen by the supporters of the club, winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Season. Valencia turned a point under Mourinho, not being all that good defensively under Louis van Gaal, but under the Portuguese manager, he changed and could well have been the best right-back in the Premier League last season. Valencia signed a new contract earlier in the summer, which will surely mean he will keep his place, but cover will be needed throughout the season to keep him fresh, which there seems to be a lot of at the club right now with Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe and some other talented youth coming through the ranks. Mourinho could also opt to bring in cover during the transfer window. Valencia has a few years left at the top and being resurgent as he was in the last season, he could be the difference between United winning the league next season.

Appearances: Premier League: 29, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 9, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 43

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 7, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4.5/5

Matteo Darmian

The Italian defender had a chance to show what he could do under another manager, a chance to bring back his form from his first few matches for United, which saw him being compared to Gary Neville. That changes with performances not being all that good throughout his debut season, much the same this time, but injuries to Luke Shaw and the fact that Daley Blind was also covering for injuries to central defensive players, Matteo Darmian played at left-back for much of the season. He was not the best player in that position, but certainly not the worst either. Darmian may very well leave the club this summer with Mourinho looking for a side capable of challenging in the Premier League, the only competition they fell short of last season, but if he stays, he will be a valuable squad player, one which could seek a chance to become a starter, but that would depend on a few things, one being the fitness of Antonio Valencia who is the best right-back United have, despite him being a right-winger.

Appearances: Premier League: 18, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 29

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Axel Tuanzebe

Axel Tuanzebe was praised by Jose Mourinho near enough as soon as he became the manager, giving him his first team debut during pre-season on a trip to Wigan Athletic. The manager stated that giving him ten minutes was enough to see his qualities, suggesting that this season would be the season he would break through. It was but it was towards the end of the season where he was thrown into the first team, covering as a right-back with Antonio Valencia being rested against Arsenal, dealing with the threat of Alexis Sanchez very well. Tuanzebe then played out of position in midfield against Tottenham Hotspur, not playing his best game, which was understandable with him playing out of position. The player was utilised against Southampton and Crystal Palace also, as well as playing once in the Emirates FA Cup. Tuanzebe now knows what will be expected of him and with Marcos Rojo being injured for much of the coming season, along with new defensive acquisition Victor Lindelof, Tuanzebe could well find another chance to show the manager what he can do, keeping his defence rested in a bid to do much better next season, in the Premier League at least.

Appearances: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 5

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 0, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Chris Smalling sidelined? What are Jose Mourinho’s options?

Chris Smalling has been out of action for Manchester United recently, last playing against Chelsea in a 4-0 humiliation for Jose Mourinho’s side on his first visit to his last home stadium. Smalling, who under Louis van Gaal rose to becoming one of United’s best defenders post-Sir Alex Ferguson, could now be facing more time on the sidelines because of injury which the Daily Mail reported was a broken toe, which would keep him out for another month, but those reports have since been denied with the Guardian reporting the denial. Jose Mourinho confirmed that Smalling and teammate Luke Shaw were sidelined and missed the victory over Swansea City in the Premier League last weekend, speaking out about players playing the game despite not being 100% fit, which does seem to be a rarity, not only now, but going back through the years too.

“Smalling doesn’t feel that he can play 100% with his pain, Luke Shaw told me this morning that he was not in the condition to play, so we had to build a defensive line. In every sport – and I know because I have friends and they play at the highest level in other sports – how many times you play and you are not 100%. To compete you have to go to the limits. It’s a cultural thing for some and that’s not my culture.”

The earlier reports, which were suggested to be corroborated by those close to Smalling, now seem to be something on confusion as to whether the England defender will return from injury in time to face Arsenal at Old Trafford in the early kick off on Saturday 19th November in the Premier League. United already have some concerns in the squad, especially with the defence with Antonio Valencia out with a break in his arm and Eric Bailly out with a serious knee injury. Luke Shaw also seems to either be injured or still affected by his leg break over a year ago, which seems to have affected his form considerably. Phil Jones, who has spent much of the last three years on the sidelines made his return to first team action last weekend in the 3-1 victory over Swansea City, playing his first competitive match since the 2nd January, against the same side, in a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford.

Jones has seen his form rise and dip since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, with his latest return under Mourinho likely to be his final chance to cement his place in the squad. Jones was highly praised when he arrived at the Old Trafford club from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2011, lauded to be a great player for United by the legendary Scot, but has just not emerged as the player he was once tipped to be. This could be down to the poor management of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, which could either change the course of the future for the now 24-year-old. Jones played well against Swansea, but they are a poor side this season, far from the side who punished United over the last three years. However, this could give Jones the confidence to find his feet at United, as could the fact there seems to be placed at stake in the first team, which could motivate him to give his best to his new manager.

United also have Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, who have both had mixed years at the club with both finding it hard to cement a place in the team, despite the fact Blind partnered Smalling last season, doing well during the course of it. Smalling and Bailly are a big miss for United currently, especially with teams like Arsenal and Feyenoord on the horizon, which are must win matches for Mourinho’s side. United’s Academy is a place to look to strengthen the side with RoShaun Williams and Axel Tuanzebe, among others likely to offer Mourinho something for the future, as well as for the now. Tuanzebe is a player Mourinho has lauded himself, giving the 18-year-old some time in pre-season, suggesting that a few minutes was all that was needed to show the strengths needed on his rise to fame. Mourinho said:

“You can play 90 minutes or one minute. Sometimes one minute is enough. With Axel, ten minutes is enough! The potential is there, you see it immediately. You know him better than me because you know him for a few years but if anyone sees him for the first time, ten minutes is enough to see the potential.”

United have a few options available to them, but against Arsenal, it would be a gamble to bring in the likes of Tuanzebe and Williams, but that said, Marcus Rashford was a gamble too, look how that has worked out for the club, he’s even linked with Real Madrid in Spain at the current time, despite the club being hit with a transfer ban for their own greedy actions in the transfer market. Mourinho will know what is best for his team. Smalling could return against Arsenal for all we know. Mourinho knows what he is doing. Sir Alex Ferguson ran Manchester United very well, and in the time he has been gone, the club has seen leaks make it to the media, team news being send out to fans hours before being released and other things making the club look bad. Mourinho will be in control of things like Fergie was at some point, which should help United get back to where they once were, the top of the game.

copyright: JW