So far, one of Manchester United’s unlikely heroes this term has been Netherlands international Daley Blind. The 26-year-old arrived Old Trafford in the summer of 2014 after a stellar campaign with the Dutch team at the Brazil World Cup. And ever since, he has slowly grown into the Red Devils’ most underrated player.
As it was with many United players, the season began with many tipping Blind to be one of the many victims of a very likely squad overhaul by Jose Mourinho. A defensive midfielder by nature, injuries to Louis van Gaal’s squad meant he was going to become one of the few that got played out of position, and not any has excelled more in a different role more than he has done.
Last season, he appeared 35 times in the EPL, primarily as a central back. And he hardly put a foot wrong. Despite playing in an unfamiliar territory, Blind recorded a perfect 100% shot accuracy, 84% average pass accuracy and created 25 chances – all as a centre-half.
He has grown into the position and despite talks that he would be moved back to midfield – more like on the bench as Jose loves his defenders physical and imposing, Blind has found himself a very useful part of the United backline.
Having started out in the heart of the defence alongside summer recruitment Bailly, Chris Smalling’s starting berth looked to have come under threat. Once the England international was brought back into the fold with Blind making way, Manchester United suffered their heaviest defeat of the season in a 3 – 1 loss at Vicarage Road.
Blind had to be brought back. And this time around, as a left back in place of the injured Luke Shaw. His impact was immediate, as he assisted 2 goals and another second assist during the 4 – 1 shellacking of Leicester City. Throw in 8 total chances created, an average of 9 defensive actions and 87% average pass accuracy over the course of the season.
In the space of 6 games, the Dutch has already played in 2 different positions and has been more than influential every time. In all his league appearances under Jose, Manchester United have conceded just 5 goals.
Here is a player everyone keeps waiting for being found out at the back by EPL opposition attackers due to his unimpressive stature establishing himself with every passing game. Blind’s vision and wits have prevailed over Mourinho’s want for physical abilities. Although he hasn’t been always perfect, but he remains one of the best all-around performers in the team.
Manchester United legend Paul Scholes said of his expectations concerning Blind last month ,
“Blind is a better defensive midfielder for United than he is a centre-back, but he’s been an excellent partner for Eric Bailly so far this season, hence why Chris Smalling is not in the team at the moment. Yet, he’s not won everybody over yet. Why? Because he’s physically limited in the Premier League and people are expecting him to be found at some point. I suppose I still am, and against City he was found wanting against a dynamic Kevin de Bruyne. I would rather see Smalling partner Bailly in the long-term.”
Blind’s performances thus far could mean Mourinho will find a way to put him in his first team plans all the time, and not on the bench. Manchester United’s bench is currently the most expensive in the world. Depay, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Darmian Matteo, and the ostracized Schweinsteiger all cost £100million, and adding a
£13.8 million Daley Blind who has long justified his small fees is almost near impossible. Blind has been the team’s silent catalyst thus far, and Jose will be wise to have him in his plans till he (Blind) proves otherwise.