With all the talent to come through the door at Old Trafford this season the least exciting was probably Daley Blind. This is not a criticism, I’m a huge fan of the Dutchman but he’s not going to light up Old Trafford in the same way that Di Maria or Falcao might, his job however, is probably the most important in this United team.
Against Everton Van Gaal lined up with a midfield of Di Maria, Blind and Valencia, with Mata deployed further forward. That’s leaving a lot of work for Daley Blind, whilst Di Maria and Valencia are industrious and will certainly put in a shift, they are at heart attack minded wide players. Blind is essentially tasked with the job that most teams entrust at least two if not three men to do.
In his 4 Premier League appearances Blind has made an average of 3 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game. Only Phil Jones and Rafael have made more interceptions and only Jones and Herrera have made more tackles. His importance to the midfield is apparent from that alone. When you add in an average of 3.8 clearances per game, his defensive contributions are added to.
In comparison Di Maria offers little defensively, he’s made just 4 tackles and 7 interceptions in his 5 games at Old Trafford, Valencia fares a little better, with an average of 2.8 tackles and 2.2 interceptions. This shows how much work Blind has to get through, if United wish to control games in the manner they’ve become accustomed to and to stop leaking so many goals they will need more cover in midfield.
There’s no doubt that Blind’s versatility is in part why he was signed, he’s at comfortable at centre back as he is at left back or in the role he currently occupies. Given his versatility it’s not surprising he’s such a well-rounded player.
His work is as much off the ball as it is on the ball, breaking up play is as important as starting attacks. His average pass accuracy is 88.9% and Blind plays an average of 67.8 passes, the 10th highest of all players in the league. His passing range is varied, he has played 3.3 long balls per game so far, so he can release United on the counter or switch the play if needed. Unsurprisingly, Blind hasn’t created many chances for his team mates, his role is that of the middle man, by occupying space he can receive the ball and feed those who supply the goals.
Presumably Herrera will replace Valencia when fit and that will add some more solidity to the centre of the park. It’s clearly a problem of having such a plethora of attacking talent that fitting all those players in isn’t going to be easy and the solution seems to be removing a man from midfield. At the minute United aren’t a balanced side, there’s too much emphasis on attack and that isn’t sustainable, they’d benefit more from dropping one of the strikers for more midfield cover.
Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com