Manchester United’s squad is full of talented and quality international players, all competing to make the starting lineup. But Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind seem to have fallen out of favour with the manager recently and have seemingly been forgotten by the footballing world.Embed from Getty Images
Matteo Damian and Daley Blind have fallen out of favour at United recently.
The Decline of the Defensive Duo
Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind were signed by former manager Louis Van Gaal and both enjoyed favour under the Dutch manager. Blind, who was signed in 2014, made 24 league appearances and even claimed 2 goals in his first season. His popularity under Van Gaal continued into his second season with the reds, where he made a further 35 league appearances and helped United to win their first silverware in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era. Italian full-back Matteo Darmian enjoyed similar favour and popularity under Van Gaal, making 25 appearances after signing in 2015. Both Darmian and Blind were clearly valuable players in Van Gaal’s eyes, making a combined 60 appearances in his final season with United. Both defenders also featured in the FA Cup final, with Blind playing the full game and Darmian coming on a substitute. This good fortune and popularity would not last for the defensive pair though.
In Mourinho’s first season neither Darmian nor Blind dramatically fell out of favour. Both still made a respectable number of appearances across all competitions and played the whole game in the 2017 Europa League Final, but things have been very different this season.
Matteo Darmian has only made 4 league appearances so far this season, compared to almost 30 in his first season. Blind has similarly fallen out of favour, making only 5 league appearances so far. The last time Darmian made an appearance for the reds was in late January against Yeoville in the FA Cup. Blind has similarly only really clocked up minutes in cup competitions, with his last United appearance being in early January in United’s victory against Derby. The defensive pair are undoubtedly struggling at United now, yet Mourinho has held onto both of them through the January transfer window.
The revival of Luke Shaw’s career may have contributed to the decline of the pair, Blind especially, as he often occupied the left back position. However Ashley Young has even enjoyed playing in this position, highlighting how Blind truly has fallen out of favour and faces substantial competition to get in the team.
The revival of Luke Shaw’s career may have contributed to Blind’s decline in popularity. However he also faces competition from the likes of Ashley Young.
Blind and Darmian have shown that they can slot in practically anywhere in defense when the opportunity arises. This may have been one of Mourinho’s main reasons for keeping the defensive duo at Old Trafford. Given the injury struggles the team has endured over the past few seasons, Mourinho may recognise the worth that having two flexible defensive players adds to the team. As United battle on in three competitions having two versatile players, who can slot into the squad. Injuries, squad rotation and fatigue will mean that having players like Blind and Darmian can take some of the pressure off the regulars and clock up some valuable minutes on the pitch.
Additionally it is entirely possible that Mourinho could already be thinking about next season. With the retirement of club captain and fan favourite Michael Carrick looming, Mourinho may be eyeing Blind (who is in fact actually a defensive midfielder) up as a possible successor or at least a possible reserve defensive midfielder.
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The defenders were reportedly being pursued be multiple teams, with Roma and Juventus amongst the rumoured suitors. However Mourinho has kept a firm hand on the defensive pair. Whether they last in Mourinho’s United team or do eventually get sold in the summer, for now, as the fixture list grows busier and busier keeping players like Darmian and Blind could prove to be the difference between being able to keep the team afloat and performing at the best possible level, as the reds move forwards in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.