With a plethora of changes to United’s defensive line over the past few months, chiefly due to injuries or some sort of ‘experimental philosophy’, the constant reassurance, besides the heroics of De Gea and slow consistency of Marcos Rojo, has been Daley Blind. The Dutchman has emerged as a calm go-to in the middle of the park and with Michael Carrick hugging the sidelines for the next few weeks, Van Gaal can confidently build around him – both as a man who can create up front and one who can provide the effective last ditch effort in defence. He doesn’t panic. He provides the logical pass and often sees a gap that Carrick might have produced in Sir Alex’s last season in charge. The quiet, patient key to Van Gaal’s push for a top-4 spot and re-introduction into Champions League football. With a dismal display against West Ham on the weekend, with no offerings from Falcoa or Van Persie, Blind’s last minute equaliser to cancel out Cheikhou Kouyate’s opener saved LVG’s men from some blushes, too. If anything, Blind popping up whenever he’s needed is becoming more and more of a weekly episode on a mixed bag of performances.
Since arriving from Ajax in the Summer, there has been a big question mark on the man. Notably, Gary Neville criticised his ‘safe’ approach. There were a lot of fans wondering if he’d become as ‘safe’ as Tom Cleverley. But with an early uneasiness in our defensive line, Blind has become the effective shield, the intercept man, the player who can often slide a pass through to the likes of Van Persie and Falcoa. It’s become a trend this season – there has not been enough killer passes to set up our world-class strikers. It’s also a wonder Ander Herrera can’t start to fulfil that role, too. But that’s a story for another day.
In United’s 3-1 win against Leicester, Blind’s latch onto a loose ball and quick assist to Van Persie to set up a goal was just another example of his ‘clever’ mind for the game in front of him. And it’s his turn to basics, like holding possession under pressure, that has proved to be a major victory for LVG’s side. He even seems to have fallen in line with the ‘hoof ball’ tactics that we seem to have adopted of late – a bonus that he can actually successfully deliver into the box.
At age 24, he also provides a maturity beyond his age and versatility that United needs– much like Carrick who was often used in a defensive role or a deeper-lying midfielder when United were plagued with injury. Perhaps the Dutchman doesn’t have the pompous leadership that one might see in a Keane-type or a rough-and-tough type like Fellaini, but he is effective. And more effective than Carrick in being the middleman between defence and attack. The slight flaw? Getting out the ball a little quicker – but speed has often been a criticism of the season so far. Blind’s métier? The fact that he’s our current bail-out man in uninspiring victories and draws. Keep bailing, Daley!