Since Louis van Gaal was announced as the new Manchester United manager in late June, if you are Dutch and not linked with a move to Old Trafford then you can count yourself unfortunate. Speculation around who the new boss is going to bring with him was always going to be elevated because of the third place finish they achieved which was well above expectations writes Joe Maloney.
A number of eye catching displays were noticed throughout the tournament especially after the 5-1 and 3-0 thrashings to Spain and Brazil. In truth, you wouldn’t have found many people picking the likes of Nigel De Jong, Stefan De Vrij, Wesley Sneijder Memphis Depay and Jordy Clasie as the players who were going to reinvigorate a team that finished its worst ever Premier League campaign in seventh place. It is clear, Manchester United require an influx of new faces if they are to mount a serious title push this coming season.
One player who should be high on the list however is Daley Blind. A man who was very familiar to the Dutch management structure for this tournament, with his father Danny being employed as LVG’s right hand man. Blind, 24 who graduated through the famous Ajax academy (a club close to Van Gaal’s heart) possesses a number of qualities that would ensure him to be an important player in the new United regime.
His outstanding display at left wing back, against defending champions Spain, was one of the outstanding performances of the tournament. Few forget Robin van Persie’s remarkable diving head was met from an outstanding cross field ball from Blind. Left-back, his most natural position, is something United will need cover for because of the recent sale of Patrice Evra to Juventus. There is no other recognised left back remaining except for new signing Luke Shaw.
Although Shaw has been brought in from Southampton for £27 million, it will be impossible to ask an eighteen year old to play his first full season at one of the biggest clubs in the world without a dip in form or injury. Blind has demonstrated his ability to play at wing back, should Van Gaal decide to utilize the 5-3-2 system that worked so well for the Netherlands over the summer.
One of the attractions to Van Gaal’s style of management is his ability to recognise things are not working how he would like and switch to a different system that his players know like the back of their hand. He did this a number of times during the tournament, which saw Blind perform well in a slightly deeper defensive role, while the team changed to a vintage 4-3-3 formation. He has also tailored his game to be a useful central defender. The new boss has made it clear to the clubs hierarchy that it is a priority to bring in players within this area after losing the experienced figures Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The only recognised centre defenders remaining in the squad are Johny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, all of which struggled with injuries and form last season.
After beating LA Galaxy in their first pre season game 7-0, Van Gaal insisted United would continue playing the 5-3-2 when the season began. Therefore, it is obvious signings will need to be made. Darren Fletcher finished the match Pasadena at the back because of the lack of depth available. Daley’s international team mate Stefan De Vrij has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford, although he appeared to struggle whenever tactics were switched to a 4-3-3 system and he had only one central partner. De Vrij has been put up for sale by Feyenoord since the conclusion of the World Cup which casts major doubts over his capabilities.
The most valuable problem Blind will be able to solve in United’s team is the holding midfield role vacated by the injury to Michael Carrick. Although Carrick remains an important player for the reds, it is obvious this area of the team requires refreshing. Currently, it lacks pace, power, energy, drive, creativity and stability. Ander Herrera is an almost certain starter next term yet it is apparent van Gaal would like to add to this area. Marouane Fellaini, brought in by David Moyes for a extravagant fee of £27 million is not good enough for a club of United’s stature. Darren Fletcher is unlikely to ever be the player he once was, before his unfortunate illness, and Tom Cleverley has failed to live up to the promise he once suggested.
Blind was a regular in the Ajax side that culminated in being crowned League champions last season. At the age of 24, he has the majority required, yet years ahead of him to establish himself in the middle of the park. His naturally defensive mind-set may profit Herrera, also in his first year with the club. Herrera, who was second to Fabregas in attempting through balls in La Liga last year, will be expected to create opportunities for Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. At the same time he is very comfortable on the ball and uses possession well. National team mate Nigel De Jong is regularly criticised for his passing ability, therefore making him a better option.
Another Dutchman who will likely be signed by Van Gaal is Kevin Strootman. He is a big fan of the Roma anchor man, however the serious knee injury picked up last season ruled him out of the World Cup and he has only just recently started training. Therefore it is unlikely Strootman will be signing for United this summer. That is a possible deal likely to be revisited in January or next summer.
The new United boss has said he wants to assess his options before making any further signings this summer. However, it is predicted a number of investments will be made before the transfer window shuts at the end of August. Deals may happen late in the window. The club starts the season without having to play any of last season’s top six teams in the first six fixtures of the new campaign. Therefore the panic for deals to be completed isn’t as frantic as in past seasons. If United are to regain the title from neighbours Manchester City next May, they will have to have the best squad because of the strains the Premier League creates. Flexibility is key for the different types of opposition that will be faced. Consequently the signing of Daley Blind may not be the biggest signing Manchester United make this summer but it may just be the valuable one that helps Louis van Gaal deliver success in his first season at Old Trafford.
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