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Dybala for Lukaku? Man Utd can't believe their luck

00:00 SAST 2019/08/01
Romelu Lukaku, Paulo Dybala
The Argentine could be persuaded to head for Old Trafford and it is a deal in which United would be huge winners, regardless of the potential pitfalls

Connoisseurs of Italian football are still shaking their heads in disbelief at the prospect of Juventus swapping Paulo Dybala for Romelu Lukaku. For Manchester United though, it would appear to be a no-brainer.

Lukaku has become a £75 million ($91m) makeweight at Old Trafford, with his 42 goals in two seasons not proving enough to persuade Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he should be favoured over Marcus Rashford in the number-nine position. 

As a result, the Belgian has become desperate for a move.

And with United unconvinced by the proposals presented by an Inter side on a tight budget, the prospect of adding a player of Dybala’s quality is understandably tempting. Discussions remain at an early stage so far, but the Reds are surely the only winner if this deal makes it over the line.

Solskjaer’s 4-2-3-1 formation needs a more convincing number 10 than Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata or Andreas Pereira – the three players to have been employed there during pre-season so far – with many of their better chances on tour being created from wide positions and most of their more laboured and ponderous play coming in the centre of the attacking third.

As such, Dybala is a ready-made addition. His ability to evade tacklers and create play from in behind the front man has made him one of the most exciting forwards in the Italian game.

That is not to say he is a guarantee of success for United though, with a million different reasons why this is a move which might not pan out as desired.

Dybala had a promising but inconsistent three-year spell with Palermo after arriving in 2012, with his propensity to go through long slumps having become a concern for some followers of the Rosanero.

After he moved to Juve in 2015 he immediately fitted in as a senior player and revelled in becoming a key man following the exits that summer of Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal. However, there still remained that same tendency for him to go off the boil for lengthy periods in a season even before the 2018 arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo bumped him out of the picture somewhat.

Having switched to a 4-3-3 to suit Ronaldo it became impossible for Juve to get the best out of Dybala since the Argentine is not really suited to either wide position. Ultimately, the new reality resulted in a lack of game time for Dybala and the player has been a more irritable presence in Turin according to some close to the club.

It has been a similar story so far at international level, with his inability to play at his best when chosen in the same XI as Lionel Messi having developed into a huge issue. He has just 24 caps to his name and has scored only twice, with his appearances in major fixtures having been restricted due to his inability to adapt. For Ronaldo at Juventus, read Messi with Argentina.

United fans will understandably be wary of the story of an Argentine attacker becoming disgruntled at being phased out of his favoured role at a continental giant and arriving at Old Trafford to much pomp and circumstance. The same thing happened in 2014 with Angel Di Maria at Real Madrid and it was only a matter of months before that saga went south.

For Dybala to be a success at United, he will need to have the right attitude. He will need to buy in to the project Solskjaer is building and the work ethic which goes with it. United have been all about the high-energy press right from the front, and the 24-year-old cannot be a passenger in that regard.

He can be the man to unlock packed defences, but United will be just as keen that he doesn’t become the player who helps opponents to get through their press and set up counter-attacks. 

There must be no sulking a la Di Maria, or such as his own past few months at the Allianz Stadium, even if a move from a serial Serie A champion and regular Champions League challenger to a slumped giant playing in the Europa League is a backward step rather than a forward one.

If Dybala treats this is as a chance to prove that Juventus are wrong for being so open to the idea of him leaving, then United should be on to a clear winner. Either way, having a somewhat inconsistent talent of the level of Dybala has to be a step up on Mata, Lingard or Pereira when it comes to options in the slot behind the front man.

Swapping a dispensable big-money Lukaku who has netted once in 20 United games against top-six opposition for a potential match-winner in Dybala? United should do everything they can to get this deal done.