Manchester United fans won't miss Daley Blind too much
Like Marouane Fellaini has become the representative of the David Moyes era at Manchester United, Daley Blind is as close as it comes to representing the Louis van Gaal phase, and there won't be many supporters who are sad to see another reminder of that time moving on.
Blind has re-signed for Ajax and United won't miss him, as he wasn't used enough to make an impact. But in a time of disarray, as United looked to steady the ship following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and a disastrous year of Moyes, Blind was someone to be relied upon, and all United fans will wish him well.
First of all I want to say how proud I am to be a part of the Manchester United family. To play for the biggest club in the world with such a history meant a lot to me. I had 4 great years with 4 trophy's! (1/3) pic.twitter.com/6mUkmN4DTP— Daley Blind (@BlindDaley) July 17, 2018
The Dutchman never really wowed the fans at Old Trafford, but he was certainly respected. There have been times over the past couple of years when someone with his composure and experience would have been welcomed in the team but Jose Mourinho didn't want to know.
Blind has wasted a year of his career playing for Mourinho. He should have pushed for a move and been allowed to leave last summer, with Van Gaal bizarrely suggesting that Blind should make a move to Barcelona. While a move to the Spanish giants wouldn't have been on the cards, there are plenty of teams who could have made use of Blind's strengths. His vision and passing ability meant he could have been asset in whichever position he played. In the past, his lack of pace cost him when playing defensively, but he still had the potential to turn it on in the big games against big players. Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane are among the top strikers who have been kept out by Blind at centre-half in United victories.
He will return to Ajax with great anticipation, where he can hopefully see his status return to someone important, with a key role to play, rather than the forgotten man he has become.
Reports suggest that United have sold him for a £14 million fee which could rise to £18m. When you consider that is the price the club paid for him for years ago when he was 24, and he is now in the final year of his contract, United have done unusually well to recoup such a sum.
That may have something to do with Ajax's desperation to see their academy product re-join the club. Earlier this month, manager Erik ten Hag claimed they were "doing everything" to get a deal agreed upon and were drawn to him because of his "stable personality" and ability to play in various roles.
Ajax trailed PSV by four points at the end of last season, which is a marked turnaround from when Blind last played at the club. They won the Eredivisie four years in a row leading up to Blind's departure to United, when he was named the Dutch Footballer of the Year.
When United faced Ajax in last year's Europa League final, Blind confirmed he was an Ajax fan and would always have the club in his heart. When he returned to Amsterdam a few months after leaving the club back in 2015 to say farewell, the fans unveiled a banner for him and gave him a standing ovation. There's a real warmth between the club and player that he has missed out on at United, particularly in the last season or two.
Just two years ago, in Louis van Gaal's final season at the club, Blind made 56 appearances in all competitions, including the victorious FA Cup final over Crystal Palace. Whether played in the centre of the defence or at left-back, and occasionally in the centre of midfield, Blind was an important member of Van Gaal's squad.
He was likely one of the few players who was disappointed to see Van Gaal leave and replaced by Mourinho. Interestingly, one of the things Blind praised Van Gaal for at the time of his departure was his keenness to protect the players and take the flack himself.
"He has defended us under any kind of circumstance," Blind said. "He always kept us in the background."
That approach couldn't be more different to the one Mourinho employs. He's happy to throw any player under the bus to deflect criticism away from himself.
Blind's departure is unlikely to mean United are scouting for a replacement, given how infrequently he played last season, although it should free up some cash for other signings, with him reportedly earning £75,000-a-week.
Both Ashley Young and Luke Shaw were ahead of him in pecking order for left-back, and neither of them are world beaters, while he didn't even get a look in for the midfield spots in the team. Mourinho clearly hasn't had any interest in him but his contract was extended in January to ensure he didn't leave for free this summer.
The pressing issue now is to ensure funds are ploughed back into the team, with the squad looking far too light just a month before the new season starts. Mourinho fell 19 points short of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City last season, so the next few weeks will be crucial in sorting a squad to bridge that gap.
Shifting deadwood is welcome, but ensuring top quality is brought in is another matter entirely.