The Euros is in full swing after a long season and attention has been switched from Club to Country allegiance, familiar faces who have drawn battles lines playing for their respective teams now coming together to defend the national honor. Amidst the Euros however, club activities have refused to be totally silenced, with clubs hiring new managers and major transfers already taking place or rumored to be on the verge of taking piece, hence this article takes a step back from the Euros and focuses yet again on the bread and butter of league football, especially as it concerns a player who is absent from the tournament.
Sometime last year, I wrote an article on the need for Manchester United and then manager Louis Van Gaal to hurriedly sort out the conundrum that had come with defining star player Wayne Rooney’s ‘best position’. This came off the back of the teams return to the Champions League after the Dutch manager’s first year in charge. Whilst there is no denying that a fit and inform Wazza is an asset to any team, without a properly defined role, he becomes a liability as witnessed largely in the just concluded season where he performed below his usual standards and calls were even made for him to be dropped from the ongoing Euros which sensibly Roy Hodgson declined.
Yet again, there has been a change at the helm of affairs at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho has been announced with so much frenzy and more covering than even the Copa America commands. Pundits have highlighted the new manager’s strengths, his shortcomings, how he seeks to rebuild the team and his chances at succeeding at a club he seemed to have desired to be manager for a long while now.
So when news broke recently that Jose had already began plans to build his own United army, and in order to attain this, some players have to be sold, it didn’t come as much of a surprise but one name which has drawn mixed feelings from fans and observers is that of versatile Dutch defender, Daley Blind.
The 26 year old defender was one of the teams’ most consistent performers last season which climaxed with an FA Cup medal to his name. Daley Blind started his United’s career as a defensive midfielder/ left back but from playing 45 minutes as Centre back in pre-season following injuries to Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to featuring in 55 games in all competitions this season with over 95% of those games as a Centre Back alongside Chris Smalling, the duo (with the help of Player of the season David De gea) helped United to Joint best defense in the league conceding just 35 goals, an average of 0.92 per game, keeping 18 clean sheets. Daley Blind is not the biggest or quickest of defenders but his versatility (which is fast becoming a dying feature of modern day footballers), vision, calmness, ball passing ability, and intelligence in reading the game are some of the attributes that has endeared him into the hearts of United fans with one of his highlight of the season been the way he handled Everton’s Romelu Lukaku during the 2nd leg of their league game.
However, many United faithful including the writer seem caught in a quagmire, as despite him being a likeable player, many do not see him as the solution to United’s defensive worries long-term, and it seems the new manager shares the same view following his first recruit in the form of Villareal defender, Eric Bailey. He has also been known to favor quick and bully like defenders in the past with the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Materazzi, Terry, Zouma and Pepe featuring at his respective teams.
With Luke Shaw set for a return in the coming season and largely viewed as United and England’s long term left back, if he regains his form and manages to stay fit, the left back role may not be one that would welcome Daley Blind anytime soon.
His midfield has also featured really strong and physical players and with a rumored transfer war chest, that makes it one area he will surely be fortifying to compete with the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin who had a below par debut season and would be seeking to make amends in the new one, a returning Bastian Schweinsteiger who has a role to play if fit, veteran Michael Carrick who was recently awarded a one year contract extension and even a Wayne Rooney who ended the season as a deep playing midfielder, chances are Jose may choose to continue with this experiment especially if Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrives to support burgeoning talent Marcus Rashford in the attack, the competition and preferences may likely stifle Blinds’ playing time in the middle of the pack.
So where is Daley Blind’s best position? Can he evolve into yet another previously un-deployed role? Will he be content with a place on the bench for long- spells in the season? These are all questions that Jose Mourinho will be answering in the coming weeks, so while the likes of Ashley Young, Maroune Fellaini, Darmian, Ander Herrera, Memphis Depay might be shown the exit door with little or no regrets, a Blind exit would see a few tears from fans, his talent will surely be in high demand across the top leagues but like James Rodriquez who seems not to fit in Zidane and Madrid’s style despite his obvious brilliance, such may just be the story of Daley ‘Versatile’ Blind.