Opinion: Why Manchester United is right in walking away from Paulo Dybala
After a catastrophic ending to last season, Manchester United, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to change their transfer strategy. Instead of signing players that have already peaked elsewhere, the focus was on young emerging talent in their early or mid-twenties.
As part of the rebuild, Solskjaer wanted to create a young, hungry squad of players with their best years in front of them. Solskjaer's vision of reviving United through a nucleus of hungry, young players has so far yielded Daniel James (18), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21) and Harry Maquire (26) in the transfer market. The signings represent a return to a longer-term strategy of player recruitment, shunning United's approach in the recent past of signing Galactico-like superstars.
Solskjaer's plan to construct a new, vibrant United around Marcus Rashford meant Romelu Lukaku was no longer the club's number-one striker. The Norwegian was keen to offload the Belgian ace, as he felt he did not fit into his team's style of play. As a result, Manchester United found themselves in negotiations over a swap deal involving Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala. Inter Milan had also shown interest in Lukaku but failed to meet United's valuation of the player.
On paper, the swap move appeared to suit all parties. United get rid of a player they don’t want for a 25-year-old Dybala who until recently was the " shining jewel of the Old Lady’s crown."
Out of place
Ronaldo's arrival at Juventus last summer meant Dybala was longer the star of the show and the Argentinian prodigy was forced out to the right wing from his favored No.10 role. Now, surplus to requirements under Maurizio Sarri, United jumped to the front of the queue to open talks with Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici to facilitate the move.
However, it has been reported that Dybala wasn't very keen on an Old Trafford adventure and only a huge pay-rise would have persuaded him to leave. United quickly realized they don’t need players who are solely motivated by the monetary aspect of the move.
If United had accepted Dybala's exorbitant wage demands, it would have potentially destabilized the club's wage structure. Alexis Sanchez’s huge wages have already sparked a domino effect in the dressing room of players demanding vastly-inflated salaries. Surely, Ed Woodward has learnt his lessons and did not want to go down that same path again.
More importantly, United need players who are completely committed to the cause and are motivated primarily for footballing reasons.
Dybala's situation over the past week rekindled memories of Angel Di Maria's big-money move from Real Madrid to United in 2014. Di Maria did not want to leave Real and Dybala does not want to quit Juventus. Di Maria was sold to Paris St-Germain less than a year later.
Therefore, few would doubt Dybala’s enforced arrival would have resulted in an unhappy marriage and United's decision to pull plug on the deal is undoubtedly the right one.
Ed Woodward and Solskjaer have done some good business this summer in terms of recruiting the right characters. Dybala's arrival may have undone all the good work.