When Daley Blind became an official squad member for Ajax in 2008/09, opinions were divided. Some felt he was not good enough while others saw the potential in him. As a young kid, he eventually played a total of five league matches that season but Ajax manager Martin Jol was not convinced.
The following season he was loaned out to FC Groningen where he played left and right full-back and put in some fantastic performances. After a great spell in Groningen, many clubs wanted to loan him but Blind decided he wanted to stay at Ajax to earn his place in the team. It was a bold move and ultimately proved to be the right decision. His chances were limited under Jol but he was fired in December 2010. His successor was Frank de Boer.
De Boer immediately said that Vurnon Anita was not a left-back but a defensive midfielder. Therefore, Blind became the second choice after Urby Emanuelson and just six months later, Urby was sold to Serie A giants AC Milan. Blind was now Ajax’s first choice left-back and he played there for a few seasons until 19 October 2013.
In an away fixture against FC Twente, Blind was selected in the defensive midfielder role and with just nine minutes remaining, he provided the assist in a 1-1 draw. After that season (2012/13) he was named Ajax’s ‘Player of the Year’ and a season later the Eredivisie’s ‘Player of the Season’. All in all, it was Blind’s determination and grit which earned him his opportunities but how good is he?
Strengths and weaknesses
Blind is known for his versatility. For example, during this summer’s World Cup campaign for the Netherlands, Louis van Gaal decided to use him as a centre-back and full-back, and he played well in both positions.
He possesses great intelligence and awareness, always faces to turn the right way, knows when to clear the ball or take a breather and combines his great decision making with a strong passing ability. Of course, everybody remembers the ball he floated in for Robin van Persie in the 5-1 hammering of Spain and that is a perfect example of a courageous cross which not a lot of players would have delivered with such accuracy. Passing is one of the greatest assets of his game.
In the last couple of years, there hasn’t been a defensive midfielder anywhere in the world (expect for Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets) who has such a brilliant composure on the ball. When your build up play is dreadful, give it to Daley. He will create a brilliant through ball to one of his fellow midfielders or forwards.
That being said, he has a few flaws as most players do. He is not a ruthless defensive midfielder like the Premier League may be used to and is too slow for the left-back position but bear in mind that Van Gaal is the manager. He is able to change the game, making people understand that his philosophy is the only one to follow.
Where many United players are having trouble with adjusting to his 5-3-2 formation, Blind could lead the way. Ajax players are known for their intelligence and technical abilities, so he is a perfect fit as a defensive midfielder.
United fans should not expect a fancy player who will solve everything at the club but what you can expect is a player who will control the play, dictate the tempo and protect the defence.