#2 United’s Daley Dilemma
Daley Blind is a massively intelligent footballer. Blind’s sophistication in the game enables him to adapt to different roles on the pitch. In the past he has been primarily been deployed as a left back or a defensive midfielder. Now Van Gaal has him paired with, the impressive, Chris Smalling as his left-sided partner at the heart of the red devils defense. It was a common fear that Blind’s lack of speed and modest frame would suffer under the bruising physicality of most premier league forwards, Costa, Benteke, Pellè, Gomis, Kane, and Lukaku immediately come to mind.
When brute force is not an issue, the risk of speed merchants in the mold of Agüero, Mané, Hazard, and Sturridge tearing through, weighed on the minds of those who questioned the Dutchman’s suitability to that central role. However Blind has acquitted himself quite admirably in that role. His comfort level with the ball is a major asset to Van Gaal when trying to bring out the ball from the back in a methodical manner ensuring possession is being maintained. For a few games he showed he could hold his own against all comers, then a few cracks started to appear against Swansea where Gomis was rampant.
Blind has has mixed results with the more robust and direct premier league forwards like Benteke.
Blind was moved over to the left back spot after the horrific injury to Luke Shaw during the UCL group match against PSV. There he was exposed for lack of pace, uncharacteristically so as well, since he handled similar difficulties with distinction last season against the likes of Spurs Kyle Walker and City’s Jesús Navas. His impressive displays in the new United starting back four along with the initial run of games with clean sheets as the backline furiously protected newcomer goalkeeper Romero must have factored in LVG’s decision not to rush into signing a marquee center back within the transfer window.
Luke Shaw’s long absence does throw the cat amongst the pigeons, in addition to the news that Rojo will have a spell on the sidelines as well due to a hamstring injury disclosed after the enthralling match against Koeman’s Southampton. I would not consider Blind’s performances are uneven enough to start contemplating a switch at center back in the future, however the temptation to re-deploy him as a left back might prove too much to overcome if there is slight chance Jones is fit to play.
Daley Blind and Chris Smalling have formed a stron pairing at the heart of the United back four.
There are other exotic levers for LVG to pull, like the much-vaunted theory of returning Darmain to the left side where he has had some experience playing for Torino or even shoehorning Ashely Young there as an auxiliary. United fans will just have to live or die with the philosophy of having a ball playing left sided defender, Blind’s gift on the ball fits seamlessly with the need to be controlled in all phases, a better passer than his right-sided English partner.
His audacious assist pass to Rooney to open his domestic account, albeit against Ipswich Town, in the League Cup was a great highlight of his abilities and what he brings to that position. He will struggle in some particular mismatch situations no doubt, but his overall contribution and benefit to the team cannot be understated. Live with it – surely.