At the 2014 World Cup, Louis van Gaal deployed a midfielder as a left-sided wing-back, a forward as a right-sided one and a winger as a forward in a two-man attack.
Granted, the former Netherlands manager’s positional decisions were, at least in part, governed by necessity, as he looked to overcome both injuries and what he saw as a lack of quality in some areas.
But he made it work, and after surpassing expectations in Brazil, he found himself in charge of a Manchester United outfit with many of the same issues.
In the weeks since arriving at Old Trafford, Van Gaal has converted Ashley Young into a wing-back in the absence of Luke Shaw, and Antonio Valencia has seen time in a similar role on the opposite flank.
The Dutchman likes his players to be comfortable in a variety of positions, and it’s in this light that he looks certain to land Sporting Lisbon’s Marcos Rojo, according to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian.
It’s also why the Juan Cuadrado rumours intensified on Monday.
Reports in Italy claim Fiorentina are preparing to receive a bid from Manchester United for Juan Cuadrado http://t.co/i3WIHAKVsZ— footballitalia (@footballitalia) August 18, 2014
Shortly after Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Montella was quoted, as per Goal, as saying that he has “never thought of losing” the Colombian, Florence-based La Nazione reported, as relayed by Football Italia, that the club was anticipating a bid from Manchester United.
Cuadrado, who was left behind when Fiorentina faced Real Madrid in Warsaw last weekend, started his side’s Monday friendly against Arezzo as one half of a two-man striking tandem, and in doing so he broadened a positional repertoire already sure to have caught Van Gaal’s attention.
After missing the friendly against Real Madrid Cuadrado was selected for Fiorentina's match against Arezzo— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) August 17, 2014
Typically used as a right-sided winger, the 26-year-old can also work as a wing-back down that flank—something that would solve an immediate need in United’s new 3-4-1-2 formation—and he is comfortable on the left as well.
And now he has shown he is similarly competent along the forward line—versatility that may persuade Van Gaal to sanction a €40 million move for his services.
United, it goes without saying, will see out the summer transfer window without addressing each and every pressing need in the squad, and to that end versatility will be at a premium when Van Gaal targets players to pursue.
Crucially, he has yet to sign the central defender he so desperately craves, although Rojo will be able to deputise in the role, should his transfer be completed.
Cuadrado, meanwhile, would represent another two-birds-with-one-stone acquisition, which is why he should be among the players most aggressively courted by United.
If the right offer comes in, they’ll sell.
And Manchester United, who have passed up several opportunities to bring players into the club over the last three transfer windows, would be daft to pass this one up.