Manchester United's latest transfer rumours suggest new boss Louis van Gaal is rightly making defence his top priority. The Dutch strategist is keen to bolster the weakest area of his new squad with a headline-grabbing bid for Germany linchpin Mats Hummels.
If a move for the excellent Borussia Dortmund defender fails, Van Gaal will switch his attentions to compatriot Daley Blind. However, the player's eagerness to test himself elsewhere may leave Van Gaal disappointed.
But no such disappointment should await the United chief in his pursuit of Fiorentina's ace Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado.
Here's the latest on United's current rumours, starting with Blind:
United to Bid for Blind in 48 Hours, but Player Could Choose La Liga
Van Gaal's chances of signing one of the players he worked with at the 2014 FIFA World Cup are changing. There was an initial boost, provided by comments from Daley Blind welcoming United's interest, per Floris Koekenbier and Yanick Vos of Goal.com.
However, in that same interview, Blind stated a clear preference for Spain's La Liga:
La Liga would suit my style of play. Perhaps England as well, but that's a very physical competition and that's not my biggest strength. I have made steps forward physically, but fighting out personal duels is not my thing. I am not like Jan Vertonghen, who is very powerful.
Yet those words haven't dampened rumours of United's interest. In fact, Mirror reporter Simon Mullock has suggested a Red Devils bid is imminent:
New boss Louis van Gaal is expected to sanction a £15million offer for the versatile 24-year-old in the next 48 hours after losing out to Barcelona in the race to sign Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Barca are also interested in Blind, but their successful pursuit of Vermaelen has strengthened the Old Trafford giants' resolve to beat the Catalans to a player Van Gaal knows well.
United are obviously keen on Blind, which makes sense considering how well Van Gaal knows the Ajax star and his incredible versatility.
You'd be hard pressed to find a position Blind hasn't turned his hand to. The 24-year-old Nethlerlands international can play either full-back position and even be deployed at centre-back or in midfield.
In Van Gaal's 3-5-2, Blind could play the role of wing-back or a quick, ball-playing central defender along United's three-man back line. That's the level of flexibility the club needs after losing centre-backs Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and left-back Patrice Evra since the end of last season.
Van Gaal should move fast to make his connection with Blind count and wrap up a deal for an invaluable utility talent.
Van Gaal Ready with Late Bid for Hummels
Of course, United won't mind missing out on Daley Blind if the club can somehow find a way to land Mats Hummels. Van Gaal is set to try his luck with a £30 million bid, per Star on Sunday reporter Paul Hetherington:
Hummels, Germany’s commanding centre-back, has been the top defensive target for new boss Louis van Gaal since the day he was appointed.
But Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp insists Hummels, 25, is staying in the Bundesliga.
That means United will have to test that resolve with an offer of £30m.
The Red Devils are back on the case with Hummels because their second choice centre-back, Thomas Vermaelen, yesterday joined Barcelona for £15m.
Hummels is certainly worth that fee to a club as bereft of central-defensive talent as United. He is decisive in the air, quick to cover ground and very comfortable in possession.
Those last two qualities suit the demands Van Gaal places on centre-backs in his 3-5-2 formation. However, prying Hummels away from the Bundesliga will be no easy task.
He has developed into a key figure for Borussia Dortmund, where Hummels also has the luxury of participating in this season's UEFA Champions League, something United can't offer.
That could put a club like Premier League rival Arsenal into the mix. Mail on Sunday reporter Rob Shepherd believes the Gunners will challenge United with a rival bid:
Arsenal are ready to challenge Manchester United for German centre-half Mats Hummels.
So far United have failed to agree a fee with Borussia Dortmund for the World Cup winner, with the German club wanting a sum in excess of £25 million.
Arsenal, though, could come up with the cash after the sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona on Saturday.
If he's determined to get Hummels, then Van Gaal must act fast. That means making a direct bid of cash up front to meet Dortmund's demands. Then it will be down to the art of persuasion.
Fiorentina Ready to Accept Offers for Wantaway Cuadrado
Perhaps the most likely current target on United's radar is Juan Cuadrado. Fiorentina have stated they will accept offers for the skilled Colombian, per Mirror reporter Ben Burrows (h/t Rory Smith of The Times—subscription required):
Manchester United have been given until Friday to sign Juan Cuadrado.
And he will have been boosted by the news that the 26-year-old has asked to leave Fiorentina.
Club president Andrea Della Valle has revealed he has spoken to the player in recent days.
Barcelona are also very keen and the Sunday Times suggest that a bid in the region of £25million would be enough to get him.
However, it's currently United doing all the running. Such speed even has Rob Shepherd convinced the Red Devils can complete this signing imminently: "And United are hoping to seal the £25 million signing of Colombian Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina by the end of the weekend."
Should United Pay the Fee for Cuadrado?
That seems a little premature. But United can at least steal a march on Barca in the race for a player obviously determined to leave Italy.
Speed is the key to completing the proposed transfers United are currently linked with. The clock is ticking on this transfer window and Van Gaal faces strong competition from domestic and foreign agents for his top targets.
Now is the time to put United's resources to use.