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In appreciation of Daley Blind: Manchester United’s best utility player

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The Dutchman has become a forgotten man at Old Trafford, but his quality and versatility should not be taken for granted

Swansea City v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Since Manchester United last played a game, it has all but been confirmed that a talented international left-back will leave Old Trafford in the summer.

His departure been on the cards for a while and it was close in the last transfer window. From day one of José Mourinho’s reign, he hasn’t looked like he would fit into the former Real Madrid manager’s plans.

Brought in under Louis van Gaal, his Reds career hasn’t taken off in the way many expected but he is still popular among swathes of the club’s fanbase.

Those first three paragraphs could easily have applied to Luke Shaw but I am actually referring to Daley Blind. He is set to be a victim of Mourinho’s latest clearout and Roma were interested in January.

Shaw’s impending departure is grabbing all the headlines while his versatile team-mate looks set to leave the club to very little fanfare. But why?

Blind has only played four minutes of Premier League football since August. He has been left out of so many matchday squads this season that many United fans - myself included - don’t know when he’s injured or when he’s just not in favour.

Not many people have talked about Blind since his arrival at Old Trafford. That is quite staggering for an international footballer who has been at one of the world’s biggest clubs for four seasons now.

He is the last of very few genuinely underrated players in this era of the 24-hour news cycle and round-the-clock scrutiny. Michael Carrick was underrated for a while but as soon as observers started noting that fact, it inherently became untrue.

Yet it is still true of Blind. He has been at United for nearly half a decade and has hardly put a foot wrong. Yet, he has not been in the spotlight at all throughout his time at Old Trafford.

He came as a holding midfielder but Mourinho has used him predominantly as a left-back after van Gaal converted him to centre-half. That positional switch may have perturbed many players; even James Milner admitted he didn’t like playing left-back for Liverpool – but Blind did not publicly grumble once.

As a central defender, many thought he would be overwhelmed physically or be beaten for pace. He never was.

Contrast that to the way Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf panicked, flapped and hurried their way through their contest with Christian Benteke and Alexander Sorloth at Crystal Palace earlier this month to see how impressive that reality is.

The Dutchman brought calm, technical ability and a wide range of passing to whichever role he was deployed in. United’s problems are myriad but on occasion, they simply lack the ability to pass the ball to a red shirt. Blind never struggled with that.

It is still a mystery to me that he has not at least been tried as a holding midfielder under Mourinho. Carrick’s prolonged absences have hit United hard at times but Blind was by far the closest imitation in the current ranks.

The Dutchman has seemingly paid the price for ‘not being a Mourinho player’ – tall, fast or strong – and not many will mourn his departure in a summer that is sure to see more expensive, more eye-catching, more outspoken players change hands.

But United dynasties were built on players of his ilk; humble, versatile and reliable players such as John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Wes Brown.

United’s galacticos transfer policy, aimed as much – if not more – at winning headlines and clicks off the pitch than trophies on it leaves little room for players like Blind. But their value to an elite squad should not be underestimated.

You suspect Blind enjoys going about his business quietly so the lack of fanfare that will greet his almost inevitable departure will likely suit him.

Yet, there should always be room for players like him at United, no matter how intense the pursuit of expensive superstars and instant success becomes.

Daley Blind deserved to be a bigger part of the conversation at Old Trafford.