How Van Gaal’s Netherlands protege De Vrij showed he can cut it at Man Utd

De Vrij

The Netherlands’ 5-1 drubbing of World Cup holders Spain was a scoreline even the most optimistic Oranje fan would’ve struggled to foresee.

Considered by many to delineate the end of Spain’s global dominance, this was the World cup at its unpredictable, spellbinding best.

But what made Netherlands’ systematic dismantlement of La Roja that much more special was the pedigree of their opponents.

Let’s not forget, this was a team riding high off the back of three major tournament wins (Euro 2008 & 12 and the 2010 World Cup) in the last six years. As Vicente del Bosque succinctly put it, “We qualify not as a veteran team, but mature,” – a squad unversed in the disappointment of defeat.

Conversely, Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands starting 11 had a very callow composition, with Daryl Janmaat (17), Daley Blind (13), Stefan de Vrij (13), Jasper Cillessen (9), Bruno Martins Indi (17) and Jonathan de Guzmán (11) all lacking experience on the international stage.

Their defensive sixtet, in particular, had only 81 cumulative appearances  as compared to the 213 appearances of Spain’s back five.

As it transpired, Van Gaal’s fusion of youth and experience (offered by the likes of Nigel de Jong, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder) was the perfect concoction to topple the Spaniards, with the Feyenoord (Janmaat, De Vrij and Martins Indi) contingent holding their own against their more prestigious compatriots.

De Vrij’s pass map v Spain

For De Vrij, the 2014 World Cup marks his first involvement in a major tournament, having been called up for Euro 2012 but not made the final squad.

As a result, you’d wouldn’t have begrudged a cagey performance from the young centre-back – but that wasn’t the case.

On the night, De Vrij boasted the second highest Performance Score (51) of any player on the pitch, second only to two-goal hero Arjen Robben (61).

Blind was a constant menace particularly down the right flank.

Further to that, a pass accuracy of 88% (with 57.7% of these directed forward) illustrated De Vrij’s positive mindset and effective ball retention.

The Eredivise man capped of his night with a debut World Cup goal  bundling in the ball at the back post after Iker Casillas flapped at the preceding free-kick – thus bolstering his credentials as a big-game player.

While De Vrij is concentrating on his exploits with the Netherlands, The 22-year-old has already alluded to a move to the Premier League by confirming his intention to leave Feyenoord this transfer window.

In an interview with RTV Rijnmond, De Vrij said: “The chances are that I will leave, I can probably confirm this.”

“I am with the Dutch national team so I don’t know the exact details.”

Naturally, with the paucity of centre-backs on the books at Old Trafford – following the departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic Manchester United are being touted as a likely destination for De Vrij.

It’s hardly the marquee defensive signing the Red Devils have been yearning for but under the tutelage of his national manager, De Vrij could reveal himself to be star in the making.


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