Manchester United may have spent the best part of £150m in transfer fees last summer, but Louis van Gaal has only one thoroughbred holding-midfielder within his ranks, and the man in question has been playing in the Premier League since 1999.
An audible groan could be heard from Old Trafford (and large parts of Surrey) when news came through of Michael Carrick’s injury ahead of the Red Devils’ trip to Chelsea, although many fans were relieved to hear Dutch ‘all-rounder’ Daley Blind would also miss the Stamford Bridge clash.
Last season’s Eredivisie Player of the Year had begun to build a run of form at left-back in the previous four Premier League games, which included Man Utd wins over Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, but Blind has not convinced when deputising for Carrick in the anchor role.
Prior to that four-game stint charging up the left flank, where the 25-year-old seems very much at home, Blind had put in four successive shifts as a defensive-midfielder, during which time United lost against Arsenal and Swansea, and just about beat hopeless Newcastle thanks to a second-to-last-minute winner from Ashley Young.
In Carrick’s, Blind’s and third-choice-holding-midfielder-but-not-really Phil Jones’ absence at Stamford Bridge, Van Gaal balanced blunting his side’s attack with gaining a foothold in the centre of the park by deploying Wayne Rooney in front of the backline, where the captain did a decent job in a 1-0 loss away to the champions-elect.
Van Gaal would have been better served leaving Rooney there ahead of the 3-0 loss at Everton, especially with £100m-plus forward trio Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria all fit.
As it transpired, Blind got caught out of position during the counter that saw James McCarthy give the hosts the lead within five minutes, and Van Gaal’s men never recovered.
It’s not Blind’s fault; according to WhoScored.com, the Oranje star has started in five different positions in his 21 top-flight appearances for the Red Devils, which is bound to cause confusion.
The fact that United began the season with only one true defensive-midfielder, who will be 34 by the start of next term, is a damning indictment on the 13-time Premier League champions’ transfer policy.
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