At a time when Manchester United are in freefall, former Red, Daley Blind continues to showcase his priceless versatility and growing importance to his beloved Ajax.
The departures of star duo Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong were always going to be a hammer blow to the Dutch giants, but it has allowed the likes of Blind to step up and ensure that Ajax didn’t suffer a major drop off and go back into the European wilderness.
After the dream run to the Champions League semi-finals, Ajax had to negotiate two rounds of qualifying to safely make this years group stage.
Since making the group stages Erik ten Hag’s side have produced back-to-back 3-0 wins against Lille and Valencia, with games against Chelsea yet to come.
In the first three qualifying matches, Blind operated as a defensive midfielder, where Ajax conceded four goals, but his last three European games have seen him revert to playing as a centre back. In those games, Ajax haven’t conceded any goals.
Blind has never had the lightening recovery speed or towering strength that would see him compared to the likes of Virgil van Dijk, but he has a wonderful footballing brain, which allows him to read the play perfectly. He is very calm and composed in possession, the ideal combination for a ball playing centre back or defensive midfielder.
Where would Blind play right now?
Apart from Marcos Rojo, whose time at Old Trafford could be coming to an end, United don’t possess a left-footed centre back. With Victor Lindelöf having a topsy-turvy campaign, it would have been interesting to see how the brains and guile of Blind would of matched up with Harry Maguire’s commanding presence.
So far this season, Blind has played centre back and defensive midfield for his club, and his national coach Ronald Koeman has picked him at left-back, with De Ligt and Van Dijk being the preferred centre back pairing.
Netherlands found a way to overcome a stern test against Northern Ireland, but Blind wouldn’t have been happy with his role in the goal they conceded.
After failing to clear his lines, Stuart Dallas proved too strong for Blind, which resulted in the 29-year-old being put on his backside. Dallas crossed to Josh Magennis in the area who outjumped De Ligt to power a header home.
However, Solskjaer would have loved to have been able to call upon the services of Blind in his team right now at a time when the United side is lacking quality and key personnel due to injuries.
The injury to Luke Shaw, has resulted in Ashley Young becoming a regular fixture in the side once again, Young’s performances at left-back in the latter stages of his career have been commendable, but he isn’t a natural left-back like Blind.
A major selection headache for Solskjaer has been who to play alongside Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba when he is fit in midfield, the performances of Matic and Fred simply haven’t been good enough.
Having Blind in this current United side would have given Solskjaer the option of having the Dutchman and McTominay sitting deep and protecting the back four, giving Pogba license to break free from his defensive shackles and roam forward.
How did he fare at United?
Blind made 141 appearances for Manchester United after being brought to Old Trafford from Ajax for an initial £13.8m, on the September deadline day in 2014 by Louis van Gaal.
In 72 of his United games, Blind played at centre back, but he lacked that colossus confident figure next to him, who would dominate the aerial duels, he never had a settled partner.
He won the FA Cup, Community Shield, League Cup and started at centre back in the 2017 Europa League final victory against Ajax, but he slipped down the pecking order under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho, who preferred stronger players ahead of the intelligent technician Blind.
Since returning to Ajax last summer, Blind’s performances have been impressive, the same cannot be said about Manchester United, who may have been too hasty in their decision to part ways with the Dutchman.
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