Whether it’s using Wayne Rooney in defensive midfield, Antonio Valencia as a full-back or Marouane Fellaini up front, Louis van Gaal hasn’t been afraid to put players in different positions during his time at Manchester United.
Dutch international Daley Blind could also fall into that category, having played the vast majority of his football either at left-back or as a holding midfielder.
Call it luck or a managerial masterstroke but at the start of the summer Van Gaal decided to start playing Blind at centre-back.
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Eyebrows were certainly raised, but Van Gaal was intent on having ball-playing defenders and he loves it when his central defensive pair are made up of one right-footed and one left-footed player.
Despite natural centre-halves Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo returning to fitness in recent weeks, Blind has continued to start for Man United and he is now starting to excel in his new role.
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Blind isn’t the quickest and he has been found lacking in strength when up against physical forwards like Bafetimbi Gomis and Graziano Pelle.
However, he is an extremely intelligent footballer and he has quickly learned what it takes to perform the centre-back role effectively.
His reading of the game is exquisite and so not only does he make lots of interceptions during matches but he rarely gets caught out of position.
The greatest benefit of playing Blind as a centre-back is that United can use him to play out from the back. He offers so much to the team with his technical ability on the ball, his fantastic range of passing and his vision.
Van Gaal wants to play a possession-based style of football at United this season and he recognises just how calm and assured his compatriot is on the ball.
Blind and fellow 25-year-old Chris Smalling have started every competitive game for Manchester United so far this season and have formed a very strong partnership in the process.
Smalling’s efforts must be mentioned because he has taken on the responsibility of being the aggressor in United’s back four and he’s produced some very dominant displays in recent weeks.
Whilst he imposes himself physically on opposition strikers, it allows Blind to use his ability on the ball to start United’s attacks.
Over the past few weeks in particular Blind has been in fantastic form. He organises his teammates and at centre-back he can see everything on the pitch.
Not only does he see what’s in front of him, but forwards like Rooney and Anthony Martial are willing to make runs in behind defences now because they know he is good enough to pick them out.
This was evident in games against Ipswich Town and Sunderland this week. He floated a great pass for Wayne Rooney to latch onto and score versus Ipswich in the Capital One Cup before drilling a brilliant diagonal pass that allowed Juan Mata to lay the ball on a plate for Memphis Depay to score in the 3-0 victory over Sunderland.
He was substituted in the second half against the Black Cats in a game that saw United keep a clean sheet and climb to the top of the league for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
If he doesn’t have any serious injury issues, expect to see Blind back in the team for the Champions League clash against German Cup holders Wolfsburg in midweek.
There’s no doubt that Blind has grown into the centre-back role and with his passing and ball-playing skills he has added a completely different dimension to Manchester United and the way they play.
How impressed have you been with the form of Daley Blind? Have your say in the comments section below!
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