Daley Blind will leave Manchester United this summer and return to Ajax, the club from which the Red Devils signed him in 2014, per a brief and open-ended announcement from the Premier League side on Monday.
The 28-year-old Dutch defender/midfielder was previously an every-game player at Man United, from 2014-2016, but he was limited to just seven PL appearances (four starts) and 361 minutes (plus another six starts and 540 minutes in the UEFA Champions League) last season.
While the final details of Blind’s move are yet to be announced, it has been reported that United will receive a fee in the neighborhood of $18.5 million after paying $18 million for his services following the last World Cup.
According to Dutch media giant De Telegraaf, Manchester United defender Daley Blind has departed Old Trafford and returned to Ajax. De Telegraaf journalist Mike Verweij reports that Blind has signed a four-year deal with the Dutch club and could cost Ajax up to $24.5 million, with $18.7 million guaranteed.
Blind is a product of the famed Ajax youth system, and played for the senior side for four years before moving to Manchester United in the summer of 2014 and became an immediate starter under Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal. He made 141 appearances for the Red Devils across all competitions, with his versatility allowing him to play at center-back, left-back, or at defensive midfielder.
However, Blind’s role began to decline in the latter stages of 2015 with the arrival of Jose Mourinho, and played sparingly in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons. After peaking with 35 appearances in the 2015/16 Premier League season, the 28-year-old made 23 appearances in the 2016/17 season with 20 starts, and then slumped to just seven total Premier League appearances last campaign as Manchester United finished a distant second behind Manchester City in the table.
Ajax has predominantly been a selling club in the past, looking to capitalize off its prolific youth system. However, this summer they have proven contenders in the transfer market, with Blind the club’s fourth signing after Southampton star Dusan Tadic, young Burkina Faso winger Hassane Bande, and former Fulham midfielder Zakaria Labyad. They have balanced that out somewhat with the departure of another talented youngster in 19-year-old Justin Kluivert to AS Roma.
Blind’s transfer fee makes him the incoming transfer record for Ajax, topping then-19-year-old Miralem Sulijmani back in 2008.
Jones was charged with “insulting and directing abusive language towards the Doping Control Officer” and failing to cooperate with the procedure. Blind is charged with non-compliance as UEFA stated he did not go “immediately to the doping control station as notified.”
United were also fined $11,751, with Jones banned for two European games which includes the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid on Aug. 8 in Skopje, plus their UEFA Champions League group stage opener. Blind did not receive a suspension.
Of course, anti-doping measures are serious in soccer, as they are in any sport, but the fact that Jones and Blind may not have had this on their mind right away is probably because they just finished a grueling, testing season by winning the Europa League and qualifying for the Champions League.
Jones and Blind probably just wanted to celebrate with their fans in Stockholm, but UEFA isn’t having any of it and rules are rules.
Below is the statement from UEFA in full, with United able to appeal their decision.
The club has been charged for infringements of the UEFA Anti-Doping Regulations (ADR) concerning the doping control procedure. In particular, according to Appendix B (17) of the afore-mentioned regulations, “the teams are responsible for ensuring that the players drawn to undergo doping controls are taken by the respective team representatives to the doping control station straight from the pitch as soon as the match is over. This applies even when chaperones are appointed by UEFA”.
• The player Philip Jones has been charged for insulting and directing abusive language towards the Doping Control Officer (Article 15 (1) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations), as well as for a lack of cooperation and respect towards the doping control procedure (Article 6.05 ADR).
• The player Daley Blind has been charged for violation and non-compliance with Article 6.05 (a) of the UEFA Anti-Doping Regulations, which states that “every player designated to undergo as doping control is personally responsible for reporting immediately to the doping control station as notified”.
With the 2017-18 Premier League trophy on their mind and an eagerly anticipated return to the UEFA Champions League this season, that’s just the way they like it.
Keen to stress the importance of training sessions and matches in the Californian sun, Blind’s focus was clear as Man United prepare to face Manchester City on Thursday in Houston, Texas in what will be the first-ever Manchester Derby played on foreign soil.
Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk ahead of the historic match, the versatile Dutch international sees the International Champions Cup preseason friendly as a perfect way to put down a marker for the season.
“It will be a friendly, it will be preseason… but from the inside everyone feels like it is a derby and it will always be that way,” Blind said. “It is always special to play games like that. The derby always brings something extra and it will definitely be like that in Houston.”
Having United and City lock horns in the Lone Star State, nearly 5,000 miles from Manchester, is quite something when you think about it, and Blind, 27, believes both teams are ready to soak in the occasion.
“It’s something different, that’s for sure. I think it’s great. No doubt there will be lots of people coming to watch the game and it will give a great experience to every player,” Blind said. “These are the games you want to play in with these teams. The derby always brings something extra, personally, and for everyone, so I think it will be a great game, experience and preparation for the season.”
But with Man City, Real Madrid and Barcelona coming up in the next 10 days for United before they head back to Europe and prepare for the Premier League season with the UEFA Super Cup final against Real Madrid on Aug. 8, getting the hard work in now counts.
Even if grabbing a coffee and hanging out in LA is easier than any other place in the world for Blind and his superstars teammates to evaporate into normality. At least for a few hours a day.
“We are here to prepare ourselves for the season. The training sessions and games are coming first, but of course it is nice to bond with the team and when you have an hour off we can go for a coffee or something. It’s not a big deal in LA because there are so many famous people here,” Blind laughed. “You can go for a quiet coffee and you can do it all the time, but when the time is there and we are allowed, it is nice to go and do something like that with a few teammates. The preseason and training sessions, and matches, are obviously coming first and that’s the most important thing.”
The Ajax product praised the facilities at UCLA and said this preseason was “a bit easier” than last summer when Mourinho and his team were troubled with bad weather on their tour of China and their preseason friendly with Man City in Beijing had to be canceled due to heavy rain.
“The stadiums are full. The atmosphere is nice. The pitches are good and where we train as well. If you see the American teams, I think they are growing each year and it helps to have the highlights on TV in Europe,” Blind explained. “It is difficult to compare it to Europe. I have to say soccer here… right? Well, soccer is growing. I think.”
“He is a great signing, a great player and a great person as well, now that I have met him for a while,” Blind said. “He works very hard, he is very eager to score goals and very eager to help his teammates and create chances, so I am very happy he scored his first goal and I think there are many more to come.”
“Yeah, of course. No doubt he would again be another big signing and last year he gave a big boost for the team,” Blind said. “He is still a great player and great person and he makes everything better.”
Blind’s own United career has continued to get better after he arrived in the summer of 2014 as one of the first signings of the Louis Van Gaal era. Many believed Blind may have found minutes hard to come by last season after LVG was replaced by Mourinho, but he played in 39 games in all competitions and appeared in the Europa League final win over his old club Ajax.
He is happy to stay at United for as long as possible and is willing to extend his current contract, which runs out in the summer of 2019.
“I have one more year left [on his contract] after this one and I am very happy at United. I play a lot of games and I am looking forward to the new season,” Blind said. “About my contract, I can’t really say anything. You have to ask the directors and the club, but of course, which player wouldn’t want to stay at United? I am very happy, that’s the only thing I can say.”
Blind’s flexibility was key for United last season as he played at left back and center back and even central midfield as Mourinho utilized his utility status to the max.
‘Where is Blind’s best position?’ is often a question which comes up in the stadium and pubs when United play, so, what does he think?
“I just want to play and where the manager needs me I do my utmost best and give everything I have. I think the people know that I have a little bit of a preference to play left center back,” Blind revealed. “If I play left back all season, I would be happy there too, but for me it is just important that I am close to the team. I want to play. I want to start. That’s the thing I work hard for and that’s what makes me happy. For me it’s simple I want to play and be on the pitch and want to do everything for that.”
He also revealed the experiment of playing in a 3-4-3 formation is going well in preseason and is something which could be needed as teams make it hard for United to break them down. Yet one thing, above all else, is on his mind: trophies, and plenty of them.
Hungry for more silverware, Blind believes United can achieve anything they want next season. If they achieve what he hopes they can, it’s safe to say Mourinho will be taking United back to Beverly Hills and LA next summer. They could even be allowed a few more team coffee breaks…
“It was very exciting that we won three trophies last year, so we are very happy with that. The aim for this season is well is to win trophies and of course, we want to be first in the league,” Blind said. “We have to aim high because we have a big and strong squad. We will go for everything we want and we will play every game to win, and then we will see game by game.”