Manchester United’s post-Ferguson transfer complacency remained firmly in place based on the flurry of late activity from Ed Woodward and co, but at least this transfer window bore fruit for the Red Devils.
Radamel Falcao and Daley Blind landed at Old Trafford on deadline day, bringing the club’s total haul for the summer window to 6.
Falcao will bring United’s lackluster attack some much needed potency and goals, but Daley Blind’s addition is a bit more puzzling. For starters, where will he even play?
Daley Blind’s versatility has been bandied about in quite a few English tabloids in the run-up to his eventual transfer. Virtually everybody is aware of Blind’s ability to play left back, having watched his coming out party for the Netherlands when he delivered “the pass” to Robin van Persie against Spain at the World Cup, but he has also lined up at center back and as a holding midfielder for previous club Ajax.
However, you shouldn’t expect to see Blind play anywhere other than defensive midfielder during his time with United. Any basic scouting report will tell you that while Blind is a tactically astute player with a remarkable work rate, he has a worrying lack of pace.
According to Goal.com, “Blind is simply too slow for a left-back and tends to switch off too frequently when it comes to defending. While he was rarely tested in this way during the World Cup, he will come under too much pressure in the Premier League.”
Blind might have gotten away with his periodic lapses and lack of pace at the back in the Dutch Eredivisie, but those traits are a recipe for disaster in England’s top flight where searing pace and trickery are the norm for wingers.
Instead, Daley Blind will be sitting in front of United’s back three as a defensive holding midfielder, a position in which he earned Dutch Footballer of the Year honors for the 2013-2014 season. As a holding mid, Blind will be able to use his intelligence and vision to create from deep and supply United’s attackers with dangerous balls. Playing centrally also minimizes the need for speed, meaning Blind’s weakness shouldn’t be too much of a factor.
Beyond that, Daley Blind won’t add a thing to this United team that they don’t already have. His 3 goals in 146 appearances are proof that he’s not a goal scorer, he has trouble imposing his will on games, and he’s not the defensive midfield stalwart that Louis van Gaal’s system has been crying out for.
Goal.com’s analysis of Blind from Ajax’s encounter with PSV Eindhoven several weeks ago hints at how the player might not be ready to make the grade at Old Trafford.
“Despite being given time to dictate play in midfield, he failed to stand up and be the leader that his side needed from one of their international players in what remains the biggest club game in Dutch football. He is unlikely to be allowed the same freedom in the Premier League as he was by PSV, and the fact that much of the game passed him by is a concern given how frenetic some Red Devils encounters have been in recent years.”
Daley Blind is a quality player, but he seems to lack the cult of personality to grab games by the scruff of the neck and dictate proceedings like a world-class holding midfielder playing at an elite European club should. He is not a physically imposing character with an indomitable will either, which could be worrisome for United when he’s battling behemoths like Yaya Toure and Nemanja Matic on a week-in, week-out basis.
At best, Blind is another talented player with bags of potential and glaring deficiencies. His playmaking could be a huge asset to United, but his ability to contribute right away is a giant question mark that coincides with how quickly he adapts to the speed of the English game.
In Blind’s defense, he is no stranger to overcoming adversity in his professional career, having gone from near outcast to fan favorite at Ajax, but the EPL is a whole different animal.
Manchester United should be commended for the moves that they didn’t make at midfield in this transfer window (namely, Arturo Vidal, whose knee worries look set to continue for the foreseeable future), but there were better options than Blind. His Dutch teammate Nigel de Jong, for example, would have been an absolute steal for the sum he was being touted for in the media (reportedly $10 million). He is the type of brutish midfield destroyer who would have provided cover in front of United’s wobbly back three, and he comes with a proven track record having experienced a successful spell across town with Manchester City.
Toni Kroos is perhaps the gold standard for deep-lying holding midfielder types following Germany’s World Cup triumph, but sometimes the best players aren’t available when you wait to conduct your business until the deadline.
As for Daley Blind, all Manchester United can do is wait and see.