Don’t Be Blind! He’s Brilliant
I’m probably showing my age here, but I once met 53-year-old current Netherlands assistant coach Danny Blind when he was still in the prime of his playing career.
His Ajax Amsterdam side had just beaten my local League of Ireland side Dundalk 2:0 in a 1988 European Cup tie and I managed to nab him post-match for an autograph. Him and his team-mate, the keeper Stanley Menzo, duly obliged and handed out Ajax car stickers, which I promptly stuck on my dad’s Citreon AX the following day and stayed on the car until around the time of Blind’s retirement in 1999.
Even at that young age, I recognised that this accomplished left-back was probably the best I’d ever see at my local ground. Three years later, Danny and his wife welcomed son Daley into their world, and the offspring has certainly followed in his father’s cultured footsteps.
Despite winning the Dutch Talent of the Future award as far back as 2008, Blind junior has had to endure some criticism before reaching his career’s tipping point so far at the recent World Cup. He suffered incessantly from the Ajax boo boys initially, who were suspicious of any potential nepotism involved in his progress and unimpressed with his form.
Frank De Boer’s arrival at the club helped turn things around for Blind, whom he persisted with at left-back. He had broken into the club’s first team in 2008 but it wasn’t until 2012 when he cemented his place under De Boer at full-back. He duly helped the club to a third successive Eredivisie title and ended the season as the club’s Player of the Year.
However, he moved to a holding midfield role last season and, such was his success, he was named Dutch Player of the Year in May. Since that award and the Dutch Golden Boot were merged in 2005, six of its recipients -Dirk Kuyt, Afonso Alves, John Heitinga, Luis Suarez, Jan Vertonghen and Wilfried Bony – have moved on to the Premier League. Barring problems with his Manchester United medical, Blind will become the seventh.
Despite his club form in recent seasons, he only made his international debut for the Netherlands last year but he’s almost been a ever-present since. It was his assists in the Dutch rout of Spain during the recent World Cup, particularly for Robin van Persie’s spectacular header, that brought him to global attention. He was deployed as left-back by Louis Van Gaal in Brazil but it will surely be his versatility as a holding midfielder that United have signed him for, particularly having already signed Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo.
Yet, this adaptability may prove his downfall as the likes of Paul Scholes have already questioned the player’s best position in the current United team and are not sure where exactly he can slot in. However, the stats from his final season in Holland suggest that he is more than capable of solving United’s problems in central midfield.
He made only one defensive error all season and completed almost 90% of passes. Indeed almost two-thirds of these were forward passes, suggesting that Blind can offer some playmaking guile along with his obvious defensive capabilities.
If he is as successful as some of his fellow Dutch Player of the Year winners like Suarez, Kuyt, Vertonghen and Bony in the Premier League, and can continue to follow in his father’s footsteps, United will have a bargain on their hands for the expected £13.9 million fee.