Daley Blind was one of the few Manchester United players who had a poor pre-season. Some fans, including myself, thought this form might carry into the opening stages of the Premier League season, and possibly affect the confidence Jose Mourinho had in him as United’s first choice left back. However, Blind has proved his detractors wrong with two very strong performances in the opening games of the season.
Blind saw a very good run of form last year towards the end of the season, however most of his appearances then were coming at centre-back due to injuries and suspension issues from other center backs. However, with Phil Jones back fit and Victor Lindelof signing from Benfica, it seems unlikely Blind will get a lengthy run at center back this season. This means his best option for seeing consistent matches is at left back. Right now his main competition is Matteo Darmian, who is another player who has had inconsistent form across his time with Manchester United.
However, when Luke Shaw comes back this situation will become a lot more complicated for Blind. Shaw has massive potential to be one of the best left-backs in the Premier League, so Blind will need to make sure he maintains consistently solid form until Shaw comes back to keep him out of the side.
In the first two games of the season, Blind has put in two consistent, strong performances at left back. Against West Ham and Swansea he was both defensively solid and composed on the ball, two of the things he did very well during his successful run at centre-back last season. Blind is not the fastest or strongest defender, but he does an excellent job making up for his lack of physical qualities with his football intelligence. Blind has done a fantastic job anticipating opponents runs and passes, which has led to him being a key component of United’s back line which did not concede in either of its first two matches of the season.
The key to what Shaw would bring to the United team is going forward rather than defensively. While Shaw may lack the football intelligence of Blind, he is young and will learn as his career progresses. Also, he his rapid enough to make up for most of the mistakes he made. However, Shaw’s pace and energy going forward is something he can provide which Blind simply cannot. What Blind has shown is he can put in fantastic service off corner kicks. His corner led to Eric Bailly’s opener against Swansea and gives Mourinho another reason to keep Blind in the side when Shaw returns.
If Blind can continue to provide quality service that leads to chances from corners, this could be the difference between whether he is able to keep his place in the side as Luke Shaw inches closer to returning to the United team. Blind faces a hard test against Leicester City and their in-form winger Riyad Mahrez this weekend, and if he can continue his solid defensive form against one of the Premier League’s best wingers, he will surely have cemented his spot in United’s starting eleven.