As a manager, you want players who fight for the team, players who are flexible and want to play every match, no matter what position you ask them to occupy. Over time there have been a few players like this, however, this season stand out player has been Daley Blind.
Not much this has gone Manchester United’s way in 2015/16 thus far, but one of the shining lights has to be the growth of Blind. Blind, who is 25, was brought in for £13.8m from Ajax in 2014, and up until this season, he had been in and out of his sides. However, with defensive woes, Blind has performed as United’s utility man, able to be called upon whenever he is needed.
This season in the league he has already played 21 games, scoring one goal and assisting another. He has been the anchor of the defence alongside Chris Smalling, and both have grown to become very good players. For Blind, it has been a season he can now say he’s considered a first-teamer. He offers attacking play through clever passes as a centre-back, as well as good positioning.
On several occasions this season, Blind has replaced the role Michael Carrick used to play, creating the attack as well as sweeping up behind the midfield to snuff out any opposition attacks. To be able to do both defensive and attacking work in the modern game is integral, and it illustrates just why Blind is being utilised well this season.
With so many injuries in defence, Van Gaal needs the consistency that Blind can help to provide. With key players like Luke Shaw, Phil Jones and Matteo Darmian, to name a just a few, all out injured, Blind can not only fill in anywhere across the back four, but also in midfield to offer cover. He has openly said he does not care where in the team he is played, as long as he is involved, and it is that kind of passion that managers love.
Mannchester United have a history of having utility players – Phil Neville, John O’Shea, Carrick, Darren Fletcher and more – were all well known for being able to play outside their usual position. Blind is no different, and has earned his right to stay in United’s first-team even when Jones and Rojo are fully fit and ready to play at centre-back
His attacking mind is what sets him apart, and he constantly looks to set United off on goal scoring opportunities, highlighted by the fact he has got assists in the majority of competitions he has played this season. United need leaders, and though Blind isn’t an obvious choice, he does live and breathe United, wanting the team to win, and win well.
With competition for places getting tougher in the Premier League, perhaps more teams should follow the United system and aim to have players who can play in multiple positions when needed. Tottenham have Eric Dier, a youngster who is very flexible, and if more English players do the same, then it will not only benefit their clubs, but country, too.