In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.
With the arrivals of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Memphis Depay (a year later) failing to bring back the glory days to Old Trafford, there was hardly a shortage of underwhelming additions to the United squad upon the Dutchman’s arrival in 2014.
Another man from the Netherlands who arrived not long after Van Gaal was Daley Blind, who had joined from Ajax for £15.75m.
Blind, a versatile defender, joined the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo among the centre-back ranks – the latter another new recruit following the summer’s World Cup.
By all accounts, his first season was a relative success, with Van Gaal managing to take United into the Champions League at the first attempt, with Blind pitching into the league campaign with two goals and three assists, mainly helping out in central midfield such was the array of qualities his team were able to call upon.
The arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2016 saw more time on the bench for Blind, while an ankle injury put paid to any hopes of getting into the Portuguese’s plans in his final full season in charge – and the Dutchman returned to Ajax in the summer of 2018.
United may have won trophies under Mourinho, but the club are still searching for league success – and one of the more damning truths for United was the contrastingly positive time Blind had at Ajax last season that really makes the team’s current demise even more of a mystery.
While defensive rivals Smalling and Rojo (along with new arrival Eric Bailly) were selected more often under Mourinho, Blind was seemingly cast aside – despite his competence in multiple positions (as he demonstrates at full-back for his country).
And yet, the 29-year-old went on to go within minutes of appearing in the Champions League final, and finished a Nations League runner-up with the Netherlands in a rather stellar season – while his former United teammates toiled miserably in the latter stages of the previous campaign.
Even his competition at left-back in 2014 (Luke Shaw and Ashley Young) are still present at United now – which begs the question why a player who has demonstrated his worth elsewhere was not able to make his United stay a total success.
It may have been a case of bad timing with Mourinho’s arrival, but the fortunes that Blind has enjoyed post-United would surely warrant the Dutchman another crack at success in England – if it could only be 2014 all over again.
Do you think Blind’s time at United was wasted? How different would things have been had Van Gaal stayed on as coach? Let us know in the comments below!
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