Manchester United have looked solid defensively so far during pre-season, but Louis van Gaal is still looking for additions to the squad in that area. Utility man Daley Blind would be a perfect fit for the Mancunians and exactly the kind of signing the club needs right now.
Van Gaal told reporters he was happy with his current crop of defenders, but he would still be adding more ahead of the upcoming 2014-15 Premier League season, via the Manchester Evening News' Rob Dawson.
Speaking after his team's penalty-shootout win over Inter Milan, the Dutchman said:
"We have conceded zero goals today. We are doing well but we are looking for defenders. Defenders have gone and we have to replace them. But I like [Tyler] Blackett and [Michael] Keane."
One of the players linked with a move to Old Trafford is Blind, per Dawson, and the Dutch international would make for an intriguing fit.
Van Gaal knows exactly what the Ajax full-back/holding midfielder/Swiss army knife can do on the pitch, having coached him during the 2014 World Cup. Once regarded as a giant flop, the 24-year-old has turned his career around, and he was one of the Netherlands' best players during the tournament.
Blind was mainly used as a central midfielder during the 2013-14 season, but according to WhoScored.com, he was also used as a full-back, as a winger and even as a centre-back on occasion.
He understands Van Gaal's much-talked about 3-5-2 system, but he isn't limited to just that formation. His expertise in that setup could help ease the team's transition, but it's unlikely Van Gaal will solely rely on the system during the upcoming season.
The 3-5-2 has its limits, as evidenced by Juventus' frequent struggles in the past years. It can be deadly if the right pieces are in place, but it's just as easy to take advantage of the spaces it can lead to down the flanks.
Van Gaal also knows it can be exposed against teams who play a similar system, via Dawson:
Even if the formation is here to stay, having someone who can cover for the young Luke Shaw is a big advantage. Shaw is supremely talented, but he's also very inexperienced. He has all of the physical tools to play in a 3-5-2, but it's a big transition nonetheless.
Shaw's early play has looked promising, and he has the look of a future superstar. But to suggest there will be some struggles in his first season with the Red Devils isn't preposterous—it's to be expected of a young player.
The wing-back position in the 3-5-2 is but one of many positions where Blind could help out. It's his versatility that would make him such a solid pickup as we draw closer to the new Premier League season.
He's also available, unlike many of the other defenders being linked with United. Forget about the likes of Mats Hummels; the chances the German international will be joining the club at this stage of the transfer window are very slim.
Van Gaal knows he's negotiating from a position of weakness when it comes to the very best football has to offer: The Red Devils won't be in the Champions League. For 99 percent of players, that wouldn't be a problem, but it could be for world-class talent.
It's world-class talent Van Gaal is after, and if he can't bring them in now, he'll just do it next season. United don't need that superstar defender—instead, adding depth and a player he can trust will suffice during the summer of 2014.
Blind is likely never to be a superstar, but he doesn't have to be. Like compatriot Dirk Kuyt, he would be a versatile, useful pickup who could contribute to the club for years to come.
Adding him now will only make the squad stronger, and it could help lay the foundation for world-class talent to arrive in January or next season. Once the results turn in United's favour, those superstars will be thrilled at the opportunity to play for the Red Devils once again.
Blind wouldn't be a flashy addition, but one that just makes too much sense for it not to happen. He's available, and Van Gaal has already acknowledged he wants to sign another defender. Orange is United's theme during the summer of 2014—Blind should be the next asset to add to that.
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