The recently named Dutch Footballer of the Year for 2014, Daley Blind has completed his transfer to Manchester United for a fee of £14million. I will be looking at how Louis van Gaal may use his fellow Dutchman in his revamped Manchester United team.
Daley Blind, 24, is a versatile player who can play as a defensive midfielder, left winger, left wing-back, left back and even left centre back, and will have to battle for a first team place after the signings of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Ángel di María. Blind hasn’t been a headline maker, especially due to the arrival of Radamel Falcao, who also signed on deadline day. So with so many players arriving can Blind become a first team regular?
Daley Blind is a product of the Ajax youth system, an enormously respected academy which has produced the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cruyff, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Frank de Boer and Daley’s father Danny Blind. Manchester United fans will be hoping that Blind will follow in his father’s footsteps as well as those of all of these Dutch legends.
Frank de Boer said of Blind;
Of course it seems simple what Daley Blind does, but that is often the most difficult. You’re at the top level if, in pressure situations, you still can make the right choices and remain calm, which is very difficult. But Daley does that very well at the moment, very well.
Blind won the league four times with Dutch giants Ajax, and just like the players mentioned above, Blind is capped for the Netherlands, putting in some fantastic displays at the World Cup in Brazil. In fact, Blind has come up through the international youth ranks, featuring in the Netherlands Under 15, Under 16, Under 17, Under 19 and Under 21 sides.
Daley Blind started in all of the Netherlands’ seven games in Brazil, where his most memorable World Cup moments were his pass to Robin van Persie for van Persie’s flying header, and Blind’s goal against Brazil. Blind’s assist to Van Persie is hailed by many as the assist of the tournament; Blind collected the ball near the halfway line before floating a perfectly measured long ball into Van Persie. Throughout the tournament, Blind played mainly as a left wing-back. Looking at Blind’s heat map from the Blind’s final World Cup match – Netherland’s 3rd place play-off against Brazil, we can from see that Blind occupied every space down that left wing, was not afraid to go forward, and yet still offered strong protection when needed to defend.
Where Blind plays for United is down to what formation and system Louis van Gaal selects. With Luke Shaw already brought in for a sizeable fee reported to be around £27million, Shaw looks like the first choice left back. Whether it is to be 3-5-2 or 4-3-3, or a diamond 4-1-2-1-2, it looks like Shaw will get the nod. So where does this leave Blind? Probably as a holding midfielder.
With so many new players we think the best formation for Louis van Gaal will be a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation. This means that Falcao, Van Persie, Rooney and di María can all fit into the team with the only player left out being Juan Mata. With United short of a good CDM, Daley Blind looks like the man to fill the role. His competition for that position is Michael Carrick. Carrick is 33 and currently injured, and may leave next season, while Darren Fletcher hasn’t looked too convincing this season either.
With Fellaini and Anderson out of favour and Cleverley out on loan, Blind will most probably be played ahead of them. However at the moment with Shaw injured, van Gaal will look to utilise Blind in a left back or a left wing-back role, depending on Van Gaal’s favoured formation. If necessary Blind may also fill in as a left sided centre back.
If Van Gaal plays with a 3-5-2 we may see Blind as a left centre back, but with some disappointing performances from Ashley Young, Blind looks like the clear favourite to play on the left side.
I think that United will eventually play as a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond to accommodate all the attacking options, making Daley Blind Manchester United’s future holding midfielder. With his versatility, passing ability and ball winning qualities, Blind will be best utilized as a holding midfielder.