By Greg Stobart & David Craddock
Manchester United are pressing ahead with talks to sign Fiorentina star Juan Cuadrado and Ajax defender Daley Blind as they step up their preparations for the new season.
Goal understands that United have been in contact for several weeks over a deal worth up to €45 million for Cuadrado and are confident of signing the winger, who starred for Colombia at the World Cup.
United are planning to play a 3-5-2 formation this season and Van Gaal has instructed the club to pursue Blind in addition to Sporting defender Marcos Rojo, who was named in the World Cup team of the tournament.
The Old Trafford club made a move for the 24-year-old on Tuesday but a deal for Argentine, who has been disciplined by his club and will not play in his side’s season opener against Academia, is likely to be held up by issues concerning third-party ownership.
United, however, are hopeful of clinching the deal to provide Van Gaal with a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League title.
Blind, meanwhile, who worked successfully under Van Gaal as part of the Dutch side that finished third at the World Cup, recently revealed his openness to the possibility of leaving Ajax this summer.
He said: “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.”
Cuadrado, 26, has been strongly linked with Barcelona but United believe they have the financial firepower to outbid the Catalans for his signature, although they have so far been unwilling to offer more than €37.5m for the former Udinese man.
Van Gaal wants a top quality winger to support strikers Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney and will keep tabs on Real Madrid wide man Angel Di Maria after Paris Saint-Germain pulled out of a deal to sign the Argentine.
Cuadrado, however, is considered a more realistic option and the player has told Fiorentina of his desire to move to a leading European club this summer.
United missed out on a place in Europe following a disastrous season under David Moyes but believe they still have the profile and finances to attract big names to Old Trafford.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has insisted that money is no object for United this season and suggested that they can afford to break the world record of £86m paid by Real Madrid for Gareth Bale.
Van Gaal has taken his time to assess the squad - which he feels drastically underperformed last term - and is now urging United to sign reinforcements to a group of players he has continually described as “unbalanced”.
United have already spent €75m this summer on the transfers of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera but are understood to have a transfer budget of around €200m.