Daley Blind looks set to be a victim of Jose Mourinho Mourinho’s summer clearout, with former club Ajax reportedly interested in a reunion with the Dutch international.
He has been left out of so many matchday squads this season that many Manchester United fans don’t know when he’s injured or when he’s just not in favour.
Not many people have talked about Blind since his arrival at Old Trafford. That is quite staggering for an international footballer who has been at one of the world’s biggest clubs for four seasons now and has hardly put a foot wrong. Yet, he has not been in the spotlight at all throughout his time at Old Trafford.
He came as a holding midfielder but Mourinho has used him predominantly as a left-back after van Gaal converted him to centre-half. That positional switch may have perturbed many players; even James Milner admitted he didn’t like playing left-back for Liverpool – but Blind did not publicly grumble once.
As a central defender, many thought the man valued at £16.2m by Transfermarkt would be overwhelmed physically or be beaten for pace. He never was.
Contrast that to the way Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof panicked, flapped and hurried their way through challenging contests to see how impressive that reality is.
The Dutchman brought calm, technical ability and a wide range of passing to whichever role he was deployed in. United’s problems are myriad but on occasion, they simply lack the ability to pass the ball to a red shirt. Blind never struggled with that.
The Dutchman has seemingly paid the price for ‘not being a Mourinho player’ – tall, fast or strong – and not many will mourn his departure in a summer that is sure to see more expensive, more eye-catching, more outspoken players change hands.
But United dynasties were built on players of his ilk; humble, versatile and reliable players such as John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher, Wes Brown, Park Ji Sung and Phil Neville, to name a few.
United’s galacticos transfer policy, aimed as much – if not more – at winning headlines and clicks off the pitch than trophies on it leaves little room for players like Blind. But their value to an elite squad should not be underestimated.
Players who are content not to play every week but who can come in and perform a specific tactical role were as integral to United’s success as the superstar names.
There should always be room for players like him at United, no matter how intense the pursuit of expensive superstars and instant success becomes.
Blind may well be the last in that lineage of genuine utility players to make up part of the squad at Old Trafford, and if that is the case, it would see the club lose a small piece of what has made it so successful down the years.