Old Trafford witnessed another famous victory for Manchester United against their biggest nemesis Liverpool on a day when usually, things much bigger and more valued than 3 points are at stake. After a tepid first half which reeked of the ‘same old same old’ style of harmless possession football from the home side, United managed to open the scoring with a neatly worked set piece routine followed by a quick penalty to double the advantage. Liverpool, glorified spectators for the best part of the first 70-odd minutes did peg one back through a wonder goal from the other towering Belgian on the pitch looked like they were going to give the hosts a taste of their own medicine until teenage debutant Anthony Martial walked in with the script in his hands, executing a fine solo goal to perfection to the delight of the Stretford End faithful.
Amidst all the euphoria and the joy of scoring goals again in the Premier League and the manager’s philosophy still quite unclear to many, there’s a rather clear pattern developing in Man United’s style of football that is centered around Dutch center-half Daley Blind and his unorthodox but effective skill-set required to play the role. His less imposing physique and lack of brute strength is comfortably outweighed by his innate positional awareness and passing abilities that makes him a rare kind of footballer, one that seems to have perfectly understood what his manager wants from a ball-playing defender.
What Daley Blind did on Saturday is no different from what he’s been doing albeit quietly sans the goal from the start of new season. His influence on the pitch is higher than that of an average central defender in the Premier League whilst his pass accuracy and influence on the pitch constantly reminds us all why he is NOT a natural defender.
Blind’s touches have predominantly come in the middle third and his in-game distribution of the ball was near perfect as per usual. The Dutchman maintained a pass accuracy of 88% where he’s completed 51 of 59 passes while a whopping 41 of those were directed forwards. Not only was his passing exquisite during the game, the 25-year old excelled defensively as he was able to keep Benteke at bay for almost the entirety of the game, barring the wondrous goal the Belgian managed to come up with out of nowhere.
Blind completed 40% of his tackles (2/5) and 3 interceptions and made 9 crucial clearances but there were two instances when Blind came out on top that were key to Manchester United winning their third successive league game against Brendan Rodgers’ men. The first one came in the 49th minute when Blind’s positioning just outside the edge of the box receiving short corners throughout the game clicked when he gave himself a bit more space between himself and the crowded Liverpool defence enabling him to lash the ball into the left hand top corner, the like of which one would rarely see from a center half.
The second one, although, came on the other side of the pitch when he blocked a shot from the goal-line in the 68th minute that could have certainly ended up in the back of the net otherwise, testament to his efficient reading of the game, something that Van Gaal would love in a footballer, especially one that plays in the heart of is back four.
Awarded Man of the Match on Saturday and deservedly so, Daley Blind is proving critics wrong with every game as his influence and importance on Man United playing the way they do from the back is growing by the day. With his first Old Trafford goal coming against Liverpool, the Dutchman once thought of as a utility man in the mold of O’Shea and Brown might have just elevated his own status within the squad as he continues to impress the manager and the fans alike.