Manchester United are not allowed to compete in the World Cup, probably because all the other teams are scared. So what to do this summer? Some of you will doubtless have national ties to one side or another, but for the rest of you searching for somewhere to lay your hat, here is one United-centric reason for each of the teams competing in Brazil. (This is part one. Part two is here.)
A surprisingly tough one, this. Luiz Filipe Scolari's vicious, inexplicable decision to leave out Rafael, coupled with his sensible, logical decision to leave out Anderson, mean that there are no actual connections between United and the favourites. However, if we travel back in time 12 years to the last time Scolari took on the world, who do we find in midfield? Why, it's former Manchester United legend Kleberson! Happy days.
An exercise in self-flagellation. In midfield, Croatia have two of the world's more delightful midfielders: Luka Modrić, who is basically the answer to everything, and Ivan Rakitić, who is great fun. Neither will be coming to United, but this shouldn't stop you gazing in awe at their magical competence, then weeping for what we have become.
Javier Hernandez. Maybe, just maybe, we might get to see him smile.
Only one Cameroonian has ever jogged onto the Old Trafford pitch as a home player, and although Eric Djemba-Djemba is still just about plugging away, most recently for St. Mirren in the Scottish Championship, he did not make the squad for Brazil. Still, if you're one of those United fans who still feels, deep down, that all he needs is a run of games, then Cameroon might be the sympathetic choice.
We're just two serious cases of food poisoning from seeing David de Gea in goal, and just ... er, twelve or so from seeing Juan Mata in the middle. Start praying for undercooked paella.
This is going to be in equal parts fascinating and unbearable. Fascinating, because it's not every day that you get to watch United's impending manager try and get a team through the World Cup. In essence, it's a chance to watch Van Gaal managing without United being on the line. It's a chance to watch Robin van Persie playing for somebody he likes, which hasn't happened for a year or so. And it's a chance to play kid-in-sweetshop with a number of promising young Dutch players, who Van Gaal had better be tapping up. "I'll have a Memphis Depay and a Bruno Martins Indi and a Jordy Clasie and a Daley Blind ..."
But it's going to be unbearable because literally every decision he makes, good or bad, is going to be over-scrutinised, exaggerated and generally chewed to pieces by ... well, by everybody. You're going to do it. So are we at TBB. Let's make our peace with that now. After all, United can't really lose: if the Netherlands do brilliantly, then Van Gaal's a genius; if they're rubbish, then he'll start at United all the quicker.
Another entry in the long, long list of Midfielders To Covet: Arturo Vidal. Another entry in the long, long list of Really Good Players With Which United Have Been Linked But Likely Won't Buy: Alexis Sánchez. And they're dead fun.
Mark Bosnich, United's only Australian, had a ten year Manchester United career* and is therefore the club's fourth-longest serving goalkeeper, behind only Jack New, Alex Stepney and Alf Steward. So you should support his nation as a mark of respect.
* As long as you ignore the eight seasons between him leaving as a promising youngster and returning as a cheap, disappointing, overweight compromise.
Cast your mind back to February 1995/96. Manchester United are second in the Premier League, a significant distance behind Kevin Keegan's ebullient Newcastle United side. Newly arrived at St James' Park from Parma is Faustino Asprilla, a brilliant rubber-legged Colombian forward, bought to solidify Newcastle's title bid ... and sure enough, roll around May, Manchester United are champions and it's all Asprilla's fault. Thank you, Faustino. Thank you, Colombia.
(In fairness, the suggestion that Asprilla should bear the responsibility for that blown title is at best incomplete; at worst arrant nonsense. Read this by Rob Smyth for a counter-argument. Still, there aren't many United-Colombian connections, so we have to make do.)
Er ... Olympiakos are Greek; Olympiakos beat United; Olympiakos beating United precipitated Moyes's dismissal; thank you Greece. Yep, that'll do.
As far as we can tell, Yaya Touré's happiness moves in opposition to his professional successes. One season after winning the Champions League with Barcelona, he decamped to Manchester City; a couple of days after winning the title with City, he was devastated. He hadn't enjoyed his birthday party, he hadn't got enough jelly and ice-cream, and he hadn't asked to be born. So logically, if the Ivory Coast win the World Cup he'll retire from all football, and given what he's done to United's midfield over recent seasons, that would be a blessing.
If you like Shinji Kagawa, then a decent tournament for the Japanese might just be the confidence-renewing catalyst for his club career to flourish. If you don't like him, then a decent tournament might just inspire somebody to hand over a decent pile of cash and rid United of this underwhelmist. So both sides of the argument need Japan to do well.
Nah, you're alright.
Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck ... the list of United players that will be following on from their slightly disappointing domestic campaigns in Brazil is literally the opposite of endless. Still, the odds are that at least some of you are English, which makes this a fairly easy decision. Roar. Roar. And thrice roar ...
... however, for those of you that aren't supporting England, an affectionate nod towards Costa Rica is definitely the way to go. Not for any United connection — there isn't one — but because England losing to Italy and/or Uruguay wouldn't be particularly surprising. England losing to Costa Rica, however, would be chest-beatingly, garment-rendingly, hair-pullingly, effigy-burningly brilliant.
United's Italians have been a mixed bag. Inside forward Carlo Sartori grew up in Manchester, never played for his national team, and though he spent four seasons at Old Trafford, never really nailed down a first team spot in the four fairly miserable seasons that followed the 1968 European Cup win. He does, however, hold the distinction of being United's first non-British or Irish player.
But that leaves three others, one of whom will doubtless take your fancy. There's Massimo Taibi, who legend insists was man of the match in two of his four appearances, which must give one of the best appearance-to-great-game ratios in the club's history. There's Federico Macheda, who scored that goal that time. And finally, there's Giuseppe Rossi, who is great, albeit who only became great after he'd got well clear of Old Trafford ... and in any case hasn't made the squad.
Groups E, F, G and H are here