DALEY BLIND CAN BE THE LIBERO TO HELP MAN UNITED FIND RHYTHM
Danny Blind can be the libero to help Man Utd find rhythm. As Jamie Vardy grabbed the headlines for his amazing goalscoring feats, Manchester United’s lack of potency went somewhat under the radar at Leicester at the weekend.
Despite a plethora of creative ability, the lion’s share of possession and a Leicester side seemingly happy to sit and wait for their opportunity to counter attack, United missed the chance to grab all three points as Louis van Gaal again did little to convince the doubters that his brand of football can bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.
However, were it not for one defender’s excellent delivery from set pieces, then United would not have gotten anything from their trip to the Midlands, and having been a utility man for much of his United career to date, at least one Dutchman is offering some creative thinking as a lacklustre United fail to find their spark.
Daley Blind is no longer that versatile squad option. Having been left-back for the Netherlands at the World Cup in 2014, and after plying his trade as a midfield anchorman at Ajax, Blind is now first choice centre-back for United, and his impressive displays have not gone unnoticed.
“Daley Blind is the only Dutch player left with a decent, proper pass that can create a goal,” eulogised Johan Cruyff in a recent interview – praise from the father of Total Football does not come easy.
The quiet man
An unassuming man who likes to rise his bike around Manchester to grow accustomed to the city, Blind has been the perfect partner for Chris Smalling as the English defender has developed into a fine leader at the heart of a more solid-looking United backline.
Nemanja Vidic needed Rio Ferdinand to be so effective, and it is no coincidence that when Ferdinand departed Old Trafford, Vidic chose his moment to make his exit, despite only being 32.
Like Ferdinand, Blind is the ball player, or Libero, in the partnership with Smalling. The 25-year-old likes to bring the ball out of defence, and is perfect for Van Gaal’s rigid system.
Van Gaal is a pragmatist and, first and foremost, sets his teams up not to lose. Blind is a coach’s dream as he can bring the ball out of a packed defence with an unerring calmness, and use that wand of a left foot to pick a pass.
Blind’s pinpoint long balls have been a key component of United’s attacks, few and far between as they’ve been, with raking passes from the back that led to goals against Sunderland and Club Brugge early examples of the weapon he has in his arsenal.
His versatility has helped him hone such skill. Blind’s days in the Ajax academy, where youngsters are taught to play in several positions, only enhanced such a skillset.
Defensive reshuffles around him show how important he has been to Van Gaal. Luke Shaw’s injury seemed to pave the way for Blind to be moved out to full-back, and Phil Jones step in.
However, Van Gaal never entertained the idea, instead moving Matteo Darmian to the opposite flank, playing natural centre-back Marcos Rojo out left, and even dropping Ashley Young back.
Further injuries against Watford meant a defender was introduced as the only possible replacement, with Blind seemingly set to move into midfield. Instead, Van Gaal changed the whole system, reverting to three at the back, keeping Blind as his Libero.
Van Gaal has a real penchant for a left-foot/right-foot partnership in defence, and with his passing capabilities, Blind is the perfect candidate.
The pair have a very amicable relationship, and Blind looks set to be a key figure in United’s resurgence, backed firmly by the faith Van Gaal has in his fellow countryman.
United have to improve, of that there is no question. The 20-time top flight champions are only in the running once again because their counterparts have faltered.
Everyone must play their part. Creation starts at source, and in Blind, United have their instigator. The utility man has found his place, now it is up to the rest of United’s multi-million-pound squad to find their fluidity. Surely a matter of time?