Football

Manchester United must replace Daley Blind with Kevin Strootman

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That Louis van Gaal waited until August 30 - a day before the summer transfer window closed - to sign versatile midfielder Daley Blind should have set alarm bells ringing for Manchester United fans.

No manager on the planet - with the exception of Ajax head coach Frank de Boer - knew the 24-year-old better. Van Gaal was acutely aware that Ajax were open to reasonable offers and could, if he wanted the player that badly, have wrapped up a deal in the days after the World Cup finals finished on July 13.

But after failing to land a second top central midfielder to partner £29 million summer signing Ander Herrera, it seems Van Gaal panicked over the fact he needed a versatile player and took a calculated risk on the son of his former colleague, Danny.

Blind: Panic buy

Blind Jr. had caught the eye at the World Cup in Brazil, playing from left wing-back, where he produced that assist for Robin van Persie's spectacular diving header against Spain. But after acquiring the services of Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo - for a combined £43 million - the last thing Manchester United needed was yet another left-sided full-back.

As expected, Blind hasn't played a single game for the Red Devils at full-back yet - and, in all probability, he never will.

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Instead he has been used as a defensive midfielder, tasked with shielding United's defence and distributing the ball effectively.

Wrongly hailed as potential United captain

After making his debut in the 4-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers in September - a complete non-contest - some United fans, mainly on Twitter, excitedly proclaimed this was a player capable of becoming a future club captain.

The reason? He was neat and tidy in possession and put himself about a bit.

The truth is Manchester United would have won that match against Harry Redknapp's hopeless Hoops with Anderson playing in defensive midfield. QPR had just produced their most gutless performance of the season.

Roy Keane he is not

Exactly a week later United were humiliated 5-3 against newly-promoted Leicester City - and Blind offered Van Gaal's defence a worrying lack of protection as the Foxes staged an unlikely second-half comeback.

The fans who boldly claimed Blind was Roy Keane incarnate were quickly silenced - at least until his last-gasp equaliser against West Brom towards the end of October.

While it may have been an important goal, Blind had endured another difficult 90 minutes at the Hawthorns. But things were about to get a lot tougher for the Netherlands international.

Anonymous in the big matches

Back-to-back matches against Chelsea and Manchester City - the type of game Keane would have relished and taken by the scruff of the neck - provided the perfect stage for Blind to show exactly why Van Gaal had paid £13.8 million for his services in the summer.

But despite playing the entire 180 minutes, Blind was anonymous.

Not good enough

He lacks pace and, most worryingly for a defensive midfielder, lacks strength. Even in the match against QPR there were a couple of concerning moments - namely when Leroy Fer drifted past him with relative ease.

Blind is also poor in the air and, as former Manchester United captain Gary Neville pointed out in November, is far too safe with his passing.

If Van Gaal required a midfielder to play the ball sidewards or backwards he could have saved himself a few quid by sticking with Darren Fletcher.

Blind made his first appearance for United after his lengthy injury lay-off against Southampton last weekend - and the Red Devils duly suffered their first Premier League defeat since the Manchester derby on November 2.

Kevin Strootman

Coincidence? Well, there's a reason why Van Gaal is so desperate to sign Kevin Strootman - a proper holding midfielder - this month.

The midfielder, you suspect, Van Gaal would have signed over Blind had he been fit in the summer.

Now there's a potential Manchester United captain.

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Topics:
Premier League
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal
Kevin Strootman
Football

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