Blind spot: The rise and rise of Manchester United’s new man
Daley Blind is certainly not a superstar. However, it looks like his understated style will fit perfectly into Manchester United’s new-look side, but it has not been a smooth road to Old Trafford for the Dutchman.
The Ajax academy product was linked with United, who are 8/1 for a top four finish, throughout the summer transfer window, but almost always as a fall-back option for more attractive options such as Arturo Vidal.
In the list of the Red Devils’ eventual recruits, including an incredible collection of Galactico footballers such as Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, Blind’s addition reads as more of an afterthought.
However, there is a case for believing versatile Blind may be United’s most crucial acquisition of recent transfer windows.
Once the fanfare surrounding Di Maria’s record-breaking arrival and Falcao’s indulgent addition dies down, fans will begin to see that the relatively modest outlay of £13.8m for Blind’s services was by far the best value deal the Red Devils made this summer.
This opportunity has been a long time coming for the son of Ajax legend Danny, after spending 12 seasons honing his skills with his hometown club. Rising through the ranks at the Amsterdam outfit’s academy, Blind was by no means a fan favourite and often struggled to make an impression.
Under Dutch legend Frank de Boer’s guidance, however, Blind enjoyed a renaissance in his seemingly stalled career. He rose to prominence in the 2012/13 season, finally earning a regular starting spot and eventually being crowned Ajax Player of the Year.
A move from left back to defensive midfield in 2013/14 bore even more fruit for Blind, resulting in a whirlwind campaign. His triumphs included being named Dutch Player of the Year, a fourth successive Eredivisie title with Ajax and a call-up to then manager Van Gaal’s Netherland’s World Cup squad.
If Van Gaal did not have his eye on luring the tactically astute Ajax graduate to Old Trafford before Brazil, his sensational Clockwork Orange performances, including a first international goal, would certainly have pushed Blind to the forefront of his thoughts.
Now Blind faces the most important moment of his professional life so far. Tasked with establishing himself with the Red Devils, a far cry from his comfort zone, but he already seems a snug fit.
In United’s 4-0 demolition of QPR, Di Maria, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera stole the show, with headlines dominated by how to squeeze the Red Devils’ excessive amount of attacking talent into one fully-functional side.
There were few column inches devoted to the debut of Blind before that game, but it is the Netherlands international who is the most crucial figure in the Red Devils starting XI debate.
Blind is the perfect platform for the Red Devils’ rampant offence, shielding the previously wobbly defence at the base of Louis van Gaal’s midfield diamond, aiding attacks and always opting for a simple but effective pass.
For United fans starved of midfield signings in recent years, the Dutchman is a delight and a revelation. In a still unbalanced side, the refreshing and intelligent presence of Blind can be the glue that holds this Galactico squad together; the stabilising force.
Still just 24, the ex-Ajax man can also be a foundation for the future, and may induce the long-mooted move of Michael Carrick into the centre of defence. If Van Gaal persists with his diamond formation when the former England international returns from injury, he will be competing directly with the more mobile Blind.
The Red Devils, 5/4 to finish outside the top four, have been craving the addition of a midfield marshal since injury-prone Owen Hargreaves’ career came to a stuttering stop. Many fans have been left perplexed as to how such a crucial role could be overlooked. Consequently, Blind may now find himself as the key cog in a star-studded squad.
Now the stage is set for the Netherlands lynchpin to become another legendary low-budget transfer, mentioned alongside Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic as some of the United’s top bargain buys.
Adaptable Blind, who can operate in a variety of positions, should finally reap the rewards of his patience, and enjoy his deserved ascent to the top table of Europe’s elite clubs.