Manchester United have signed 24-year-old Dutch international Daley Blind from Ajax. Blind played under new manager van Gaal at the recent World Cup.
Daley is the son of former Ajax captain Danny and has played almost all his football for that club prior to joining United, (with the exception of the second half of the 2009-10 season when Ajax loaned him to FC Groningen). Since his return to Ajax that summer he has helped the club win four consecutive Dutch titles. Initially Blind played as a left back, but last season was moved to a defensive midfield position. Playing that role he was voted Dutch Footballer of the year; the previous year, (still playing predominantly as a left back), he was voted Ajax player of the year.
His contribution to Holland’s World Cup campaign perhaps tells us why he appeals to Louis van Gaal. Throughout that tournament Blind demonstrated his versatility. A left-sided player he played variously as a left back, left wingback, left sided centre back, (notably as part of a three), and as a defensive midfield player in Brazil. So he ticks multiple boxes in respect of the manager’s efforts to “re-balance” the squad.
Daley is versatile because he is an intelligent footballer, tactically astute with good technique and spatial awareness his intelligence makes him adaptable. In many respects he is an embodiment of van Gaal’s ideal; a player who plays with his brain. As a wingback for Holland he was always aware of when to drop back into a defensive position, or step forward to combine with midfield play to advance in support of attacks. During the World Cup he contributed important assists for Robben and van Persie, notably with a pass for Robin van Persie to score the equalizer in the opening game against Spain. Daley has played 19 times for Holland since making his debut in February 2013. He secured his first international goal in Holland’s third/fourth place play-off game against hosts Brazil.
Blind could slot into any number of positions in any number of formations; critically he brings experience of playing as a wingback to a squad struggling to learn that role. He has only played this role relatively recently but he has demonstrated a level of competency others have struggled to achieve so far.
Who knows where he will be asked to play? There are reports that van Gaal has promised the player a role in midfield, and he may well feature in that area of the team also but it seems unlikely that the manager would allow himself to be compromised by making such a promise to a player. Far more likely that Blind will be utilised wherever the need arises. In view of this versatility Blind is a very welcome addition to the squad.
Daley Blind, welcome to Old Trafford.