We’re now just a matter of days away from finding the answer to a question that’s been on football fans’ lips all summer—how will new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal cope in the Old Trafford hot seat?
The Dutchman inherited a deflated squad when his tenure began, but summer signings and a successful pre-season have given the club a bit of optimism heading into the 2014/15 campaign.
However, Van Gaal’s work away from the pitch isn’t done quite yet, and he still has a few tricks up his sleeve as he looks to forge the Red Devils into serious title contenders.
One of the United boss’ star men during his time with the Netherlands in the World Cup was the versatile Daley Blind, whose future with Ajax has come under the spotlight of late courtesy of his strong performances in Brazil.
Though deployed at left-back by Van Gaal, Blind can operate at both centre-back and in the holding-midfield role, and such is his dynamic style that Europe’s elite have come calling for his signature.
Both Barcelona and Manchester United are reportedly interested in the 24-year-old, but it appears that United are winning the race to sign him.
That’s not through any powers of negotiation from the club itself, but with Barca snapping up the services of Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal, it appears that they’ve filled their central-defensive void already.
That clears the way for United to really pursue Blind, who recently said that while he’s happy with Ajax, offers from elsewhere will be considered, per Sky Sports:
“I am happy here in Amsterdam. But if there comes another club I will have to think about it and then we will see. I will think about my options. For now I will focus on Ajax and we will see what happens next week.”
While some United fans will argue that new signing Luke Shaw makes the Blind chase futile, the way that the Dutchman can slot into centre-back and still produce the goods makes him worth chasing.
Besides, if Shaw picks up an injury at any point during the season, the cover at wing-back in United’s ranks is sparse to say the least.
Blind still has a lot to learn, and while remaining at Ajax will hardly stop his progression, playing under the manager that brings the best out of him will see his career really take off.
It’s just a question of Van Gaal digging deep into his pockets to bring his countryman to Old Trafford, but it could certainly prove to be a wise investment.
Following Colombian Juan Cuadrado’s phenomenal display in the World Cup, it’s become harder to name teams that haven’t been linked with his signature than those that have.
It’s hardly surprising, though, as James Rodriguez aside, Cuadrado was Colombia’s shining star in Brazil.
The statistics are there to back that up, too, with OptaJohan revealing that he just pipped Blind on the assist front:
3 - Only Juan Cuadrado (4) has provided more assists than Daley Blind (3) at the 2014 World Cup. Vision.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 14, 2014
Though Cuadrado’s name has been ready to print on the back of several clubs’ shirts across Europe, it appears that he’s now in line to become a Red Devil.
While a high-profile signing, Cuadrado’s signature will come at a price, reported to be in the region of £32 million.
A staggering price to pay, sure, but the Colombian would fit perfectly into Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system at United, with his ability to fly up and down the wing demonstrated in both Serie A last term and in the World Cup.
It’s just how he’ll manage defensively that could put the Dutchman off the move, and that’s something The Guardian’s Tor-Kristian Karlsen noted:
Juan Cuadrado is a tremendously exciting player (pace, 1v1, goal scoring) but does strike me as a bit "unstructured" for a manager like LvG— Tor-Kristian Karlsen (@karlsentk) August 11, 2014
A £32 million gamble is pretty hefty, but Van Gaal’s desperation for wingers means that the risk is becoming more of a necessity than anything else.
As Sky Sports revealed, per the Sunday Mirror, the Dutchman recently said that the distinct lack of wingers in his setup is rather troubling, and they need a world-class figure out wide:
“At this moment, we have five No.9s and four No.10s—and we don’t have wingers to give us attacking width. Or, I should say, we don't have wingers of the highest level, like Ronaldo or Di Maria or somebody like that.”
Clearly, the United boss has a lot of admiration for Angel Di Maria, who is another wing option to rival Cuadrado.
The Red Devils have been linked with the Argentinian for some time, and with other clubs not willing to part with such a large fee for his services, the door has opened for United.
Whether or not it’s worth paying upward of £50 million for the Real Madrid man remains to be seen, but Van Gaal’s quest to bring a winger to Old Trafford means that one of either him or Cuadrado heading to Manchester is a real possibility.
United fans have been taken through it all in the transfer window this summer, and it’s unsurprising to see some of them adopt a policy of not believing a single word until pen is put to paper.
However, in Blind, Cuadrado and Di Maria, United have three players who would undoubtedly prove to be sensations next season, and it all rests on Van Gaal’s wise, capable shoulders.