Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal certainly raised some eyebrows at the beginning of the season when he decided to convert Daley Blind into a centre-back. The 25-year-old Dutchman isn’t the strongest or quickest but he is a very intelligent footballer, he reads the game excellently and Van Gaal knows him well from their time together in the Netherlands national team.
There’s no doubt that Blind has adapted admirably to his role in central defence, but Van Gaal could do a lot worse than to push his compatriot back into central midfield, the position in which he started his Manchester United career.
Like what Javier Mascherano - who used to be a midfielder - has done for years at Barcelona, Blind provides quality on the ball from a deeper position on the pitch and his calmness in possession has been priceless at times for Man United in recent months.
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Not only does Blind have the vision to see a pass wherever he is on the pitch, but he has the technique to execute them as well. His sublime long-range diagonal passes, reminiscent of United legend Paul Scholes, were a prominent feature of his game earlier in the season.
Blind is often the one who starts United’s attacks by playing out from the back and from a defensive standpoint, he rarely gets caught out of position and can anticipate and snuff out dangerous situations.
Blind’s versatility has been overlooked at times this season by Van Gaal. He was brought through the ranks at Ajax and during his six years in their senior team, he played all of his football as either a left-back or a defensive midfielder.
Should Blind be pushed further forward?
Blind should be pushed forward into a midfield role because, despite playing as a central defender, he’s been one of United’s most creative players in what has been a disappointing season thus far. His knowledge of the game means that Blind would be just as comfortable back in midfield as he is in defence at the moment.
Blind scored his first goal at Old Trafford in September against bitter rivals Liverpool after a brilliantly worked free-kick by his teammates. The accomplished way in which he took that goal showed that he has both the temperament and the ability to affect the game in the final third of the pitch. And he added to his tally in United's recent FA Cup tie with Derby, too.
The Dutch star has even started to take set-pieces for Van Gaal’s men this year and provided the assist for Bastian Schweinsteiger’s first Man United goal at Leicester with an inswinging corner.
Lack of midfield options
Van Gaal has been heavily criticised this season, and rightly so, however the Dutch manager has had a severely depleted squad to choose from as a result of all the injuries at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and World Cup winner Schweinsteiger are all capable of playing just in front of the back four, however that entire trio are currently unavailable through injury.
Marouane Fellaini is a towering physical presence but, based on his recent performances for the Red Devils, the 28-year-old Belgian clearly isn’t good enough technically to play as a holding midfielder. With Ander Herrera now being deployed in a more attacking role, it has left French international Morgan Schneiderlin as Van Gaal’s only top-class central midfield option.
Blood the young defenders
A midfield move for Blind would allow academy graduates Paddy McNair and Axel Tuanzebe to gain some precious first-team experience in the heart of the defence alongside United’s defensive leader Chris Smalling. The 26-year-old Englishman has been one of the club’s few star performers this season and has the potential to be a future captain at Old Traffford.
Blind has always had the makings of a top-quality footballer and he has the intelligence to play pretty much anywhere on the pitch. Add that to his technical quality and vision and the Dutchman could prove to be a real asset from a midfield position as United look to escape their current crisis.
Should Van Gaal play Blind in defensive midfield as opposed to at centre-back? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!