With less than a month to go in the summer transfer window, things are starting to really heat up as clubs across the planet look to improve their squads before deadline day.
Manchester United are no different, and they are now involved in one of the tastiest rumours of the offseason so far.
According to various reports, the Red Devils are closing in on a swap deal with Juventus that will see Romelu Lukaku head to Italy, with Paulo Dybala coming to Old Trafford in return.
It would be a blockbuster deal, but many are still doubtful that the move will actually happen before the window comes to a close.
Being sold dreams once again?
United fans have been promised these types of signings in the past, only to be let down time and time again.
It started when David Moyes took over the club, as the Scotsman believed he could sign anyone on the planet. The Red Devils were linked with world-class talent like Gareth Bale, Thiago Alcantara, and even Cristiano Ronaldo. However, it was just a case of the new boss being in way over his head, as United only ended up signing Marouane Fellaini that summer. That whole ordeal was a sign of things to come.
It was a similar story last year. After finishing 2nd place in the Premier League, fans were hoping United would make the necessary signing to turn them into genuine title contenders, and they were told that’s what would happen by the board. The focus was on the heart of the defence, with the club after almost every central defender on the continent. No one would ever come, unfortunately, leaving then-coach Jose Mourinho with the Chuckle Brothers pairing of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at the back. It was no surprise when defensive issues eventually cost the Red Devils week after week, which could’ve been prevented if the front office just made the signings they promised.
And it’s just been more of the same this summer. The club did well to sign youngsters Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka early on, but it’s been quiet ever since. Linked with hundreds of players at this point, every week sees a new name in the papers. The front office have been after certain targets for so long with nothing to show for it. Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire have been so close to signing with the club for months now, but management just cannot get either of those deals across the line. Even if they do get done, it will come very late in the window, limiting time to adjust to life in their new surroundings.
United fans have been through this circus before, and it’s impossible to blame any of them for being cynical and refusing to get their hopes up at this point.
Why it could happen
All that considered, there is still plenty of reason to believe Dybala could come to Old Trafford after all.
On paper, this is a deal that makes sense for both teams and players involved.
It seems Juventus were the ones to open negotiations, asking about Romelu Lukaku after United’s talks with Inter Milan stalled. That would make sense, as they are in desperate need of a centre-forward. Mario Mandzukic is too old at this point, while Moise Kean is to join Everton to increase funding. Rumours also indicate that new boss Maurizio Sarri wants to play Ronaldo on the left-wing as well, so that option is no longer available. The Old Lady have aspirations of winning the Champions League, and that won’t happen unless they sign a proven goalscorer.
They would get that by signing Lukaku, which would also virtually guarantee them the league title. Already so dominant in the country, Juve would only further the gap between them and everyone else. Lukaku thrives against defences who sit back and defend in numbers, which is what they’ll be up against most weeks. Able to feast on any ball put into the area, the Belgian could win the Golden Boot with relative ease considering the type of talents providing the support in Turin.
The Belgian, meanwhile, is at the point in his career where a change of scenery could do him a world of good. Joining United two years ago, he got off to a running start to life at the club, but has since fallen out of favour with a majority of the fanbase. His inability to link up play means he doesn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's gameplan, so he finds himself behind Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in the pecking order.
That would be different at Juve, where he would play in a more direct system that allows him to worry about just putting the ball into the back of the net. Lukaku is better when he’s surrounded by better teammates, which is demonstrated every time he shines on international duty with Belgium. He also kept mentioning about how he dreamed of playing in Serie A one day this past season, and he would likely not want anything more than to play for the best team in the country.
Man United would not only clear his wages off the books with this deal, but also bring in a player that can provide so much to the attack with Dybala. Able to play anywhere across the front four, the Argentine would make an immediate impact upon his arrival. The right-wing position has been in desperate need of improvement for years now, and Dybala would be able to thrive there. With his electric ability on the ball and a wand of a left foot, he’s guaranteed to score and set up a number of goals after cutting in from the right-hand side.
Dybala used to be seen as the future of Juventus, but things took a rough turn last season. He fell out of favour with then-manager Massimiliano Allegri, and lost his spot in the starting lineup as a result, featuring for only a combined 60 minutes in the two legs vs Ajax in the Champions League quarterfinals. Dybala won’t be happy with the fact that the club are shopping him out, either. He wants to be a crucial member of the team, and it doesn't seem like that will happen in Turin anymore. However, the Argentine would have that spotlight at United, instantly becoming a focal point of the attack.
He would also get to play at Old Trafford on a consistent basis, which means a lot to Dybala. Before Juventus came to Manchester to play in the Champions League, the Argentine made sure to praise the stadium whenever he got the chance to. He tweeted about the Theatre of Dreams before the contest, writing about how many sacrifices he had to make to play in such a historic venue. He’ll salivate at the chance to make Old Trafford his home, and United fans will be more than happy to cheer Dybala on week after week.
If United are ultimately able to bring in Dybala, it would be a signing that could change everything. The Red Devils would go from fighting with Arsenal and Chelsea for a top-four spot to challenging near the top of the Premier League table. This team is still flawed, but with a proven world-beater in Dybala, the future at Old Trafford looks just a little bit brighter.