Yep, it’s another of one of those articles.
For those who don’t know the drill, we here at Dream Team are fascinated with football’s great spider web, the never-ending series of connections that link players in all manner of delightful, devilish and unexpected ways.
We’ve already done Liverpool and Arsenal, now we’ve given Man United the treatment.
For each of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s current XI, we’ve selected a former team-mate with hopes of either a) pleasantly surprising you or b) tickling your nostalgic bones.
DAVID DE GEA & SERGIO AGUERO
Two of the longest serving players on either of side of the Manchester power struggle that has played out over the last decade.
Both moved to England in the summer of 2011 from Atletico Madrid and Aguero revealed in Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary on Man City that De Gea remains his best friend on these shores.
Both have been great success in their respective fields; the Spaniard became the first United keeper since Peter Schmeichel to be heralded as the best in the world (circa 2017), while the Argentine has scored more goals for City than anyone else in their 125-year history.
AARON WAN-BISSAKA & RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK
At 22 years old, Wan-Bissaka is still in the infancy of his professional career and so we were limited in terms of intriguing former team-mates.
His first season with Crystal Palace coincided with Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s loan move to Selhurst Park.
The Chelsea midfielder impressed in his spell with the Eagles, so much so Gareth Southgate included him in England senior squads.
It’s surely only a matter of time before Wan-Bissaka follows his former team-mate to don the Three Lions.
VICTOR LINDELOF & JAN OBLAK
Benfica sold Oblak to Atletico Madrid before Lindelof became a first-team regular but these two would certainly have shared a dressing room/training pitch on several occasions and that’s good enough for us.
The pair overlapped for two seasons between 2012-2014 but the Swedish defender spent most the time honing his craft for the B team while the Slovenian sat on the bench.
2015/16 was the breakout campaign for both, but not in combination as Oblak had moved to La Liga by then.
HARRY MAGUIRE & JERMAINE PENNANT
Maguire’s time at what many would call ‘proper English clubs‘ are a goldmine for forgotten exes.
He spent his formative years at Sheffield United alongside Conor Coady (now of Wolves) and James Beattie.
And how did Hull manage to get relegated from the Premier League in 2016/17 with Maguire and Andy Robertson in defence?
However, for the pure when-did-that-happen factor, we went for the man who mildly inconvenienced Paolo Maldini in the 2007 Champions League final, Jermaine Pennant.
The ex-Liverpool winger spent six months at Wigan in 2014/15 after a brief spell in the Indian Premier League with Pune City — they do say that Wigan is the Pune of England.
Maguire joined him at the DW Stadium for a loan spell and, rather neatly, the centre-back’s only goal for the Latics came away at Blackpool as he headed home a Pennant cross.
LUKE SHAW & ADAM LALLANA
You don’t need to enlist the services of Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out.
Most will remember Shaw and Lallana at Southampton but what may catch you out is the fact their first season as team-mates occurred when Saints were a Championship side.
While the Cryuff-Turn obsessed midfielder was influential in securing promotion with 11 goals and ten assists, the rookie left-back only featured in an FA Cup fixture.
Shaw established himself as a key player in the Premier League and played in all but three league games in the season before he and Lallana secured their ‘big moves’ with the former breaking the mould and choosing a destination other than Anfield as he departed St Mary’s.
NEMANJA MATIC & AXEL WITSEL
You’ll notice we have tactfully omitted Scott McTominay and Brandon Williams because, as one-club men (boys), they are yet to acquire any former team-mates capable of sufficiently piquing your interest.
So our historians took a look as Matic instead.
You may remember the Serbian midfielder signed for Chelsea in 2009, only to be sold to Benfica two years later before moving to Stamford Bridge for a second time in 2013 after he had been converted into a defensive midfield monster.
His forgettable first spell in London means he counts the likes of Deco, Juliano Belletti and *checks notes carefully* Fabio Borini as former team-mates.
As is customary for Chelsea players, he also spent some time in the Netherlands on loan with Vitesse.
There he linked up with Wilfried Bony who was still a couple of years away from earning a transfer to the Premier League on his own.
Ultimately, we settled on Witsel for a combative midfield combo — the Belgian played alongside Matic at Benfica for half a season.
FRED & ALISSON
Fred is one of many Brazilians to have represented Shakhtar Donetsk in recent years.
Douglas Costa is probably the most successful Selecao members to have passed through Ukraine but we traced the United midfielder’s past back to his homeland.
Most will know Fred and Alisson as international brethren but did you know they were briefly team-mates at club level with Internacional?
The Liverpool keeper’s debut season in professional football aligned with Fred’s last in Brazil as he crossed the Atlantic in 2013 to join Shakhtar.
JUAN MATA & DAVID SILVA
We thought about taking Mata’s season with Real Madrid’s Castilla side into account – where he played alongside Marcelo – but decided that was probably cheating.
As it is, you can take your pick from the gluttony of glorious players the Spaniard called team-mates during his four seasons at Valencia: Fernando Morientes, Vicente, Joaquin, David Villa, etc…
We went for Silva because the mental image of those two working in tandem, unburdened by ageing ligaments, is too racy for pre-watershed entertainment.
BRUNO FERNANDES & LUCAS TORREIRA
We’ll be the first to admit that Fernandes’ pre-Sporting days are a mystery to us.
Old Trafford’s newest fan favourite made headlines through his goalscoring exploits in Portugal but he spent five full seasons in Italy at the start of his career.
Three campaigns at Udinese offered up Antonio Di Natale as tempting former team-mate but we singled out his lone season with Sampdoria for harvesting instead.
Fernandes played alongside Torreira in midfield at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris during the 2016/17 season — sounds like a decent pairing, doesn’t it?
DANIEL JAMES & DEAN HENDERSON
These two may be regular team-mates in 2020/21 if Henderson ousts De Gea from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preferred starting XI.
If that happens they may exchange memories of Shrewsbury Town as both were on loan at New Meadow in 2017/18.
However, while the keeper gained invaluable experience in Shropshire, playing 38 League One games, the speedy winger cut a loan move short as he failed to break into the first team.
The Welshman only made one matchday squad in two months at Shrewsbury and returned to Swansea having learned very little.
If you prefer a team-mate from his Liberty Stadium days, we offer up Tammy Abraham and Renato Sanches as equally intriguing possibilities.
ANTHONY MARTIAL & DEJAN LOVREN
When Martial gave Martin Tyler an orgasm with his wonderful goal against Liverpool on debut for Man United, one of the players he left chewing on the Old Trafford turf was the Reds’ No6.
Lovren may have had an inkling the Frenchman was capable of such skill since the pair were once employed by the same club at the same time.
Martial may have made his name at Monaco – where he played with James Rodriguez, Dimitar Berbatov, Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe – but he is a product of Lyon’s academy.
He played just three Ligue 1 games for Lyon in 2012/13 before being sold to Monaco but that was enough for him to have shared a dressing room with Lovren, who joined Southampton at the end of the same season.
As a bonus, Alexandre Lacazette was part of the same squad.