How Manchester United Targets Juan Cuadrado, Angel Di Maria Fit Van Gaal's 3-5-2

Karl MatchettFeatured Columnist IVApril 4, 2017

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Angel di Maria of Argentina celebrates scoring his team's first goal in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 1, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Manchester United's new boss Louis van Gaal is still looking to significantly strengthen his first team ahead of the new Premier League season. The Dutchman seems to be keen on recruiting two big-name players if recent media reports are anything to go by.

Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado is a big target, with Anthony Chapman of the Express linking him with a £36million move to Old Trafford, whilst Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria is reported to be a £55 million target by the same source.

They are two big talents, no doubt, as well as costly ones, but they are also two players who would fit into van Gaal's side nicely in his pre-season 3-5-2 formation, as well as allowing United tactical flexibility elsewhere.

 

Cuadrado

Colombian wide man Cuadrado generally plays in the attacking line of three for his club, as he did for his nation during the World Cup in a wide right role, but he is no stranger to playing as a wing-back—the natural position he would take up in a 3-5-2.

VERONA, ITALY - APRIL 13:  Juan Cuadrado of ACF Fiorentina  looks on during the Serie A match between Hellas Verona FC and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on April 13, 2014 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

Cuadrado has pace to burn, but also is a great athlete, showing terrific stamina levels, an ability to play on the run and aid transition phases by reacting quickly to move himself from middle to final thirds of the pitch.

Antonio Valencia has generally started as the wing-back in pre-season but lacks the form and consistency of two or three years ago, having at best an up-and-down time last year. Rafael is the other option, but has been injured and played little part in pre-season. Cuadrado would be a significant upgrade on both.

 

Di Maria

As for Real Madrid midfielder Di Maria, he might now be largely seen as a wide forward as he has played there for Real, but last season he reverted to his initial position: a central midfielder with an unstoppable engine, fantastic energy levels to press, challenge and then attack constantly, and of course that wonderful level of technique which makes him such a wanted man.

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 23:  Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid in action during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 23, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Mike
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

United's three-man defence negates the need to have an out-and-out defensive midfielder as one of the double pivots. Instead, what they have largely utilised in pre-season has been one box-to-box player—Darren Fletcher has impressed most often here—and a central midfielder to continually receive and release possession. This, of course, will be new signing Ander Herrera.

Bringing in Di Maria to play alongside Herrera would give United an enormous threat on the counter-attack, making the most of Di Maria's great work-rate and his acceleration forward into space, linking play as he moves forward.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MAY 24:  Raul Garcia of Club Atletico de Madrid is challenged by Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz on May 24, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Ph
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Not a box-to-box midfielder in the usual sense, Di Maria is a midfielder who tracks back, hassles opponents off the ball in the middle—and bursts forward as soon as the ball is won, happy to take possession as he breaks into the final third.

 

3-5-2 and 4-3-3

The two players would not only give Manchester United terrific quality on the field, they are both also extremely versatile to give van Gaal plenty of options to make tactical switches at will.

The Dutch manager, of course, has favoured 4-3-3 at club and country level for years and Cuadrado's pace, goalscoring threat and ability to run with the ball at defenders make him a natural fit for the right side of the front three whenever van Gaal opts to switch to that system. He would also be a threat cutting in from the opposite flank.

DENVER, CO - JULY 26: Manager Louis van Gaal walks on the pitch before a game against AS Roma during an International Champions Cup match at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on July 26, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Manchester United defeated AS Roma 3-2.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Di Maria, meanwhile, has played out several seasons at Real Madrid as a right-sided attacker, cutting in to dribble at the defence and shoot, though could of course also play left wing without any problem whatsoever—or stick in his central midfield role as one of the three.

All told, these would be two extremely expensive deals for United to wrap up—but which would also offer a huge return in terms of on-pitch quality and contribution in the final third.