You know what upset me the most about Sunday? It wasn’t the fact that Manchester United surrendered a 2-goal lead to lose (for the first time in their Premier League history) it wasn’t that, nor was it the fact that Jamie Vardy got Man of the Match. It was the dismissal of Tyler Blackett following an admittedly clumsy but understandable tackle; he should have avoided it and it was a detriment to the team, but I understand why he did it. A bit like when your mate gets so drunk and ends up pulling a 3/10.
The treatment poor Tyler received following that sending off was completely unwarranted; ‘he’s not Manchester United standard’, ‘cant cope with the pressure’ ‘another Richie De Laet’ were some of the many critical quotes that went the defenders way following Sundays result. That last one was my personal favourite.
The local boy from Hulme, who was actually Manchester United’s most senior player last Sunday having joined the club academy in 2002 hasn’t looked out of place in a team full of supposed superstars at all this season. Blackett has featured in every single Premier League game and you could hardly fault him. His performance against Swansea, which must have been a hypnagogic experience to say the very least, was reasonably littered with nerves and indecision, but since then he has looked composed and competent in an ever-changing back line in terms of personnel and shape.
Of all the youth players that could have been first team candidates for this upcoming season under Louis van Gaal, Tyler Blackett wasn’t very high amongst the list of likely candidates. During last season he had a strenuous loan spell at Birmingham, the supporters somewhat lambasted Blackett for his performances and it seemed very unlikely that we’d be seeing Blackett in a Manchester United shirt anytime soon.
But during Manchester United’s pre-season tour Louis van Gaal and co saw something in this lanky Mancunian. Here I must confess my partial ineptitude on recognising defensive qualities, I tend to focus on the attacking side of things, but there was just something about his game that caused Louis van Gaal to like this player.
From what I’ve seen in his 5 games for Manchester United the outlining quality he possesses, without getting too technical, is his sheer fortitude and calmness in his game. Everything he does just evokes the persona of a really calm chap, you’d trust him to cut your hair during an earthquake. In more footballing terms, he is able to play a cutting edge pass forward and deal with onrushing strikers when he is in possession. For me, the equilibrium he shows must be why Louis van Gaal favours him.
Admittedly, his lax attitude can result in problems occurring; his dismissal on Sunday was a mixture of a rush of blood to the head and an unwarranted confidence that he could win the ball. He also picked up two bookings prior to the Leicester game, which came as a result of a lack of urgency.
There’s certainly some further development that needs to happen for the 20 year old in terms of being accustomed to Louis van Gaal methods, but his progression in the last 5 games has been really encouraging. In the Burnley game he was potentially Manchester Uniteds most accomplished defender in terms of passing and ball retention, the QPR game was one where he had to do very little defending but ticked all the necessary boxes and even the Leicester game merited some good points, most notably for me his stimulus to get things moving in a positive manner, which is a clear indication of Louis van Gaal’s philosophy rubbing off onto him.
That being said, development and achievement can only happen to certain extents depending on the players that surround you.
Let me put it this way; imagine you are at school and your teacher assigns you a partner in order to do a project that will be marked the following lesson, your teachers a bit of a pain and they decide to pair you up with the kid that hardly utters a word all day and has an asthma attack when there’s a firebell. The task demands you to work together and share ideas and eventually produce a piece of work that has remnants of both of your verbal contributions. I can guarantee that no matter how hard you try, you wont be able to achieve a very good mark.
In other words, Tyler Blackett is that unfortunate pupil, who has lots of potential and good qualities but can’t utilise it to a full extent because he is surrounded by a panicky and introverted weirdo, or in other words, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.
Just imagine if you were paired up with someone who gets full marks in every test he or she is given and has excellent communicational skills. The mark you would eventually attain would be better than if you were with the asthmatic kid. That’s just common practice.
Basically, the fact that Blackett plays alongside defenders who lack confidence and quality will eventually be a detriment to him as well. At times this season, the ball has been offloaded to him too soon by the supposed elder statesmen at the back in the form of Smalling, Evans, or even sometimes Jones.
The lack of leadership at the back makes life much harder for someone who is finding their feet in the Premier League. If pressure were alleviated more competently in defence then Blackett would be able to acclimatize and improve at a much faster rate. Unfortunately the defenders around him don’t take the pressure off him as much as the likes of Ferdinand and Vidic would have done.
So the question as to whether Tyler Blackett will succeed heavily relies on whether an experienced and accomplished Central Defender is brought to the club in January. If somebody like Hummels arrives then Blackett can have some very successful years at Manchester United. If not, there is a grim likelihood that he will ultimately be dragged down by the dross that already surrounds him.