Uninspiring showings have yielded just a single point from games against Swansea City and Sunderland, and new manager Louis van Gaal faces a race against time to improve his team sufficiently as they chase a return to the Champions League at the very least.
One of those reportedly interesting the former Barcelona coach is Daley Blind, with whom he worked alongside for Netherlands, and Goal took a closer look at the full-back as he took on PSV in the Eredivisie.
|PERFORMANCE AGAINST PSV|
Utilised at the heart of the midfield by Frank de Boer as the man to get close to Georgino Wijnaldum and stop him dictating play, Blind was unable to have much impact as he spent most of his time keeping tabs on his Netherlands team-mate.
Though his passing was pretty metronomical, he received little pressure from the visitors while in possession and could easily have looked to be more incisive given the freedom he was largely given at the heart of the hosts' midfield.
Instead he looked to play safe and slow the tempo of an otherwise breathless encounter, meaning he did little of note during a tame first-half showing.
Despite making his second start since reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup with the Oranje in July, the 24-year-old certainly looked off the pace for large chunks of the match, and it seems that he is still looking to reach full match fitness.
That was shown to be the case twice in the second period as PSV scored two thrilling counter-attack goals, with Blind nowhere to be seen as he struggled to track back and make any intervention with the hosts’ goalkeeper Jesper Cillessen exposed.
Eventually he was switched to a more familiar role on the left-hand side of the defence, and though this allowed him to become more involved in the final third with Ajax chasing an equaliser, it also put the microscope on his abilities around his own box.
The fact he was partly culpable for Florian Jozefsoon’s late strike signalled that he still needs to work on his defensive play, though on this showing that is not all which must improve should he move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
In a game in which he provided very few moments that will live long in the memory, Blind’s main highlight came in the 75th minute after he had been moved to left-back from his original midfield role.
Able to get forward and effect the game around the PSV box, he came inside onto his right-foot before delivering an inch-perfect pass into the path of the marauding Niklas Moisander, who found himself on the edge of the area despite being deployed as a centre-half.
Though the defender’s shot was tipped over the crossbar by Jeroen Zoet, Blind’s initial ball did hint at the type of delivery he can provide when given space in the final third.
If Blind’s highlight displayed his competency in attacking areas, then his undoubted lowlight was a clear illustration of how he must work hard on the defensive side of his game as he develops.
With Ajax chasing the game in the final five minutes, defending a goal kick with just Jozefsoon to occupy the back four seemed a relatively simple task, though it proved anything but.
Moisander missed the original header and in turn allowed the ball to bounce over the remainder of the backline. Nevertheless, Blind and Joel Veltman summed up the lack of understanding in the hosts’ defence as they clashed with each other, allowing Jozefsoon a clear run at goal to seal the points.
Whether it was Blind or Veltman who was most at fault is up for debate, but the left-back’s lack of awareness of his team-mates is a slight concern.
|WHAT WILL HE BRING TO MANCHESTER UNITED?|
As one of a number of potential signings expected to arrive at Old Trafford in the coming week, Blind showed against PSV that he has the ability to play in a number of different roles, with his adaptability one of his major attractions for Van Gaal.
Whether he has the ability to succeed in the Premier League, though, remains an unanswered question on the back of a showing that would have failed to impress any clubs interested in signing him ahead of September 1.
Despite being given time to dictate play in midfield, he failed to stand up and be the leader that his side needed from one of their international players in what remains the biggest club game in Dutch football. He is unlikely to be allowed the same freedom in the Premier League as he was by PSV, and the fact that much of the game passed him by is a concern given how frenetic some Red Devils encounters have been in recent years.
He certainly seemed far more comfortable on the left-hand side, both when he found himself on the flank during the first half and after being moved to full-back in the latter stages, but with Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo already signed to cover the departure of Patrice Evra, it is unlikely that he would figure in such a role unless Van Gaal sees fit to change his current 3-5-2 formation.
Instead he is likely to be played in a central role given the struggles of Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley in the early part of the season, but if his showing on Sunday is anything to go by then he may find it difficult to improve an area that is blatantly a weakness of the 20-time English champions.
Post-World Cup tiredness is obviously a factor, and Van Gaal may well back him to improve once he regains his full match fitness, but on this evidence there may well be better options for his former international coach to consider.