Dogged by question marks over Paul Pogba’s future and with no exciting marquee signings, Manchester United’s summer has struggled to get out of second gear with Ole at the wheel. Up until now, that is.
For all the world it looks as if Argentina forward Paulo Dybala will soon be a Red Devil, moving from Juventus in a swap deal for the underwhelming Romelu Lukaku. Should the deal go through as expected, Dybala – who looks like a weird cross between a youthful Bond villain and every American high school jock – will become the seventh Argentine to represent United.
It’s an exclusive group of players, and all are still knocking around the footballing world. Indeed, two of them remain contracted to the club. And that got us wondering: what would they all have to say about their time in Manchester? What advice would they offer Paulo?
So in the interests of transparency/nosiness, we got in touch with Paddy’s distant Russian cousin and asked if he could kindly hack their phones and intercept their WhatApp messages to Dybala. He did just that and, in an incredible stroke of good fortune, the messages were all written in plain English rather than Spanish. What are the chances, eh?
Oh, we should actually state here that Paddy’s distant Russian cousin also has a very strong tendency to generate completely fabricated fake news just for a laugh. So, you know… just keep that in mind.
Juan Sebastian Veron (Man Utd career: 2001–2003)
“Fantastic news Paulo! I wish you the greatest amount of luck in your new journey in England. Not that you’ll need it – not because of your huge talent, but just look what happened to me over there.
“I was unfit, off the pace and half the player I could have been, yet I never got Fergie’s hairdryer treatment and I STILL ended up being bought by Chelsea. They even doubled my money and let me go back to Italy on loan! If that’s the worst that can happen, you have nothing to fear.”
Gabriel Heinze (Man Utd career: 2004–2007)
“Paulo, my advice to you is simple: play with all your heart, passion and commitment, and the fans will love you. They’ll chant for our homeland and shower you with awards as they did for me.
“Just don’t get too attached to the club, because playing for United is merely a stepping stone to get to Liverpool. Getting to Anfield was all I wanted – and they were utter sh*t back then too – so imagine how amazing it would be to play there now. I pray you can realise my own dream.”
Carlos Tevez (Man Utd career: 2007–2009)
“How much have you asked for? £350,000 per week? Ha ha ha ha! You will be living on the streets with that sort of money, Paulo! Do you need me to loan you some cash? I can send you my Chinese bank account details if that will help?”
“But seriously, United are just a small-time club in the city.”
“Whatever you do, just play well enough to attract their noisy neighbours, and I’ll put a good word in for you there too. Then you can really ease off and best of all you don’t even have to bother getting off the bench to play if you don’t fancy it. Be your own boss, Paulo!”
Angel Di Maria (Man Utd career: 2014–2015)
“Don’t do it! My experience of Manchester only lasted a year and it was a year too long. It was awful. Horrible. Terrible. It’s cold, it rains, the fans boo you… the only positive thing I can say is that the beer they serve at Old Trafford is very nice. The fans throw bottles to you when you’re taking a corner as a bit of a pick-me-up. It’s very thoughtful.”
Marcos Rojo (Man Utd career: 2014–Present)
“Luxury. Comfort. Great camaraderie. A place that countless legends have walked through… there is nothing quite like the Manchester United treatment rooms, my friend. Honestly, I have been here for five years and each and every physio table has a special place in my heart now.
“As I’m always there first, I get to pick the music on the stereo before getting paid to have massages and lunch cooked for me. It’s like the health spa of your dreams, Paulo, and you don’t even have to play football to use all of the facilities. What’s not to love?”
Sergio Romero (Man Utd career: 2015–Present)
“What a city. Friendly people, fantastic steak restaurants, buzzing nightlife… I can honestly say you will love it here, Paulo. And you’re free to enjoy it all as much as you like, assuming you’ll put in next to no effort in training, be second fiddle to Alexis Sanchez and be happy with playing the odd game every now and then while picking up a very healthy weekly wage.
“There are worse things in life – sharing a dressing room with Cristiano Ronaldo for one. So what are you waiting for? Come and join us!”