Holland’s versatile defender Daley Blind has been linked with a move to Manchester United following his impressive performances at the World Cup and Ajax last season.
Despite playing at left-back in Brazil, his natural position is in midfield where he has featured regularly for club side Ajax and although United have already recruited Ander Herrera, rumours of more arrivals to bolster the midfield have been circulating.
What is Blind’s best position?
Blind was mainly a midfielder or central defender in his youth at Ajax, but broke through on loan at FC Groningen at right-back. The left-footed player then returned to play left-back at Ajax, but was never really perceived as a big talent in that position.
All of that changed when he was brought back in central midfield. As a holding midfielder, he has been essential for the Amsterdam side and it seems that the role in which his father Danny excelled in is also his preferred position. He lacks a bit of pace and power to be a true defender but has the intelligence, vision and technique to be both a playmaker from a holding midfield role.
How did he perform for his club last season?
Jasper Cillessen, the current goalkeeper of Ajax and Netherlands, has been the one that’s been the biggest difference for Ajax, but if there is one outfield player that deserves a mention, it is Blind. Not only was he important in a defensive sense, intercepting a lot of balls and winning a lot of tackles, he also did a lot going forward.
Blind is a very neat passer and was integral in Ajax’s title win. From being a player the fans had doubts about initially, he went on to be a fans’ favourite and an essential part of the Ajax puzzle.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
His weaknesses are rather obvious – he’s not the fastest, he’s not very physically imposing and needs support to play his natural game.
His natural game, though, is setting up attacks, combined with expansive passing, keeping the play wide and seeing chances where others don’t. The latter was displayed in the Netherlands match against Spain, where he provided an amazing assist for Robin van Persie.
Blind is a terrific player but one that needs to be accommodated to get the best of him.
Would he be a good fit for the Premier League?
The Eredivisie is very much based on technique and tactical intelligence, whereas the Premier League demands power and pace. Blind is very accomplished on the former but would probably need some time to adjust to the latter.
Regardless, he has the quality to adjust to that playing style and after a few months of bedding in, he would offer something different to any side in the Premier League from that role.
Would he be a great loss to Ajax?
Definitely. Despite a few aforementioned flaws, he has been key in the way Ajax play and even though it seems Ajax can get a handsome reward for him (something that was unthinkable three years ago, when a €1m fee with FC Groningen had been agreed before Blind pulled out of the deal. It is difficult to see where they can find a like-for-like replacement at a reasonable price.
Just as with Eriksen the season before, Frank de Boer chose Blind as a player to build his team around. Were Blind to leave, it would mean Frank de Boer would have another rebuilding job to do.
Do you believe Van Gaal would be interested in signing Blind for United?
It is quite clear that he likes him. Van Gaal had the choice between a few more pacy and stronger full-backs on the left, but he went with Daley Blind.
However, it is hard to see how much he rates him. He had more options in central midfield and – in his eyes – virtually none for the left-back position. Would Blind have had a shot at a starting place if those things were different? Van Gaal does judge a player on potential more than on ability, so if he sees Blind as a future star in that role, he will undoubtedly be interested. Knowing that Blind understands his philosophy and has the intelligence to add something to United’s midfield will also help.