Despite the euphoria of Anthony Martial’s dazzling Old Trafford debut it was Manchester United’s Daley Blind who continues to impress.
The Red Devils failed in their ambitious pursuit of Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos this summer and as a result Blind has been given the opportunity to conjure up a strong partnership with Chris Smalling.
Louis van Gaal clearly stated that Ramos was the only centre back United actively pursued, though fans were sceptical ahead of the season and yet again felt the centre back department was lacking depth and was vulnerable.
Smalling’s dramatic uplift in form has seen the England defender become United’s defensive leader.
But it’s Blind’s intelligence and reading of the game which has gone under the radar. In fact, Blind’s inclusion at centre back prompted many to criticise.
Not anymore. The Smalling and Blind partnership is gathering momentum and it’s a perfect blend of brute strength and positional awareness.
After enduring a difficult night away at the Liberty Stadium, Blind was expected to be targeted by Liverpool’s Christian Benteke.
Blind’s vulnerability was highlighted in the defeat to Swansea City when Bafétimbi Gomis ran the Dutchman ragged.
However Blind rose to the big Belgian’s physical challenge and highlighted his growing maturity in the centre back role.
Van Gaal has deployed Blind deeper than he has usually played as he believes his Dutch counterpart can become the ball playing centre half he most dearly craves.
The former Ajax man maintained a pass accuracy of 88% in the Liverpool clash and he completed 51 of 59 passes while a massive 41 of those were directed forwards.
Blind completed 40% of his tackles (2/5), made three interceptions and nine crucial clearances.
Aside from Blind’s goal which broke the deadlock it was his goalline clearance in the 68th minute which proved to be a crucial moment in United’s win.
Blind’s importance in Van Gaal’s side is growing with every passing game and with David De Gea back in the side, the 20-times league champions could reap the rewards of playing with an unchanged back five.
Blind has already weighed in with some pivotal goals during his time at Old Trafford and Saturday’s opener against Liverpool highlighted the technical ability the Dutchman possesses.
After being awarded man of the match against United’s fiercest rivals, Blind’s critics have been silenced for another week and with Van Gaal placing a lot of trust in one of his go to men, the Dutchman’s role in this United side is slowly being justified.
Van Gaal and Blind will both be targeting a win back on home soil on Tuesday as they kick off their Champions League campaign against Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.
Main image courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube, with thanks.