It is obvious to see how important Angel Di Maria is for Man United these days, with his attacking contributions. People were criticizing Van Gaal for not having brought enough defensive players, especially at center-back, an area where they have lost Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer. Marcos Rojo has been struggling in his debut season, but Daley Blind, for me has been a stand-out player for the Red Devils, along with Di Maria.
His role ?
With his national team, he played as a left wing-back at the World Cup. I never thought that it was his best position, as he clearly lacks pace. Louis Van Gaal is trying to implement his 3-5-2 formation at United, with the two wing-backs as their only wide players. Blind has excelled more when Van Gaal plays the 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Blind staying in front of the back four, as its protection. I think we can call him a proper anchorman of that team: He sits in the hole between the defense and the midfield, trying to intercept passes, and making challenges to win the ball back. He then doesn’t do silly things, laying off simple pass to a more creative colleagues. And he does it pretty well.
As you can see in the stats above, he averages 3 tackles per game, that is more than anyone at Man United. (More than the centre-backs : Jones (2.5 tackles/game) and Rojo (2.5 tackles/game))
He also averages 3 interceptions per game, and is third best at doing that (behind Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo). But importantly, he does it more than his fellow midfielders, even though they do not have the same role in the team.
In the premier league, only 2 defensive midfielders intercept the ball better: Crystal Palace’s Mile Jedinak (3.6 interceptions/game), and West Brom’s Craig Gardner (3.1 interceptions/game).
What about his passing contribution?
He touches the ball a lot, averaging 67.2 passes/game (3rd behind Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo), and records 89.3 % of pass success rate, that is pretty astonishing.
By sitting in front of the back four, opponents rarely close him down. He always makes himself available for a pass, and when he is on the ball, he often gets acres of space in front of him, and time to pick a pass.
Daley Blind’s contributions to his new club are as good as it gets, but the problem for Van Gaal is, he cannot do the job for his defenders. According to me, if Man United are going to challenge for the title, a world-class and experienced centre-back is very much needed.