After another disappointing season for United fans, it was a crucial summer transfer window for the club as Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer looked to shape the identity of his squad. Despite an initial upturn in results following the Norwegian’s arrival, momentum tailed off and United failed to qualify for the Champions League.
How important was he?
Fans had been unsure about Romelu Lukaku’s importance to the team, but the Belgian forward finished the season as United’s top goal-scorer with 16 goals in 34 appearances. He was also responsible for creating seven assists, second only to Frenchman Paul Pogba.
Despite this, the forward divided opinion and although his knack for scoring goals was impressive, there was some debate over his conditioning, with United legend Gary Neville accusing Lukaku of being ‘overweight’ and ‘unprofessional’ (Independent).
Forcing a way out
It may not have been surprising to see Lukaku leave Old Trafford as the target man led the attack with varying degrees of success. However, what was more surprising was his apparent attempt to force his way out of the club.
He was pictured training with former club Anderlecht on successive days and was absent for each of United’s six pre-season games (The Telegraph). Lukaku eventually got what he wanted and a deal was agreed with Inter Milan to take the striker to Italy for £74 million.
Lukaku has set Serie A alight with nine goals in his first 12 appearances for Inter, but that hasn’t stopped his critics from speaking negatively about the Belgian.
Jose Mourinho was ‘warned’ about Lukaku
Former director of football at Everton, Steve Walsh, admitted he warned Mourinho about signing Lukaku, referring to the 6ft 2 forward as a ‘big baby’ (The Athletic).
‘You have to be careful with Lukaku, he is a big baby you know. I don’t think he got Lukaku on-side mentally which you have to do’.
‘That is the case with him and Paul Pogba. They aren’t my type of players. They are more about themselves than the team. I wouldn’t have touched them. Because they are good players, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a good team out of it.’
Was it the right decision to let him go?
Although some United fans may wonder why Lukaku was let go, the majority seem to agree that the forward wasn’t the right fit for the club. His immobility and constant slowing of play seemed a direct contrast to how United want to play.
The counter-attack has been the Red Devil’s most effective form of offence since Sir Alex Ferguson utilised it with such great success. Since the sale of Lukaku, both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have proved themselves capable of leading the line.
They are interchangeable and this allows for fluidity and creativity in attack. Their pace and agility is something that Lukaku was unable to offer after ‘bulking up’, and moving him on was the correct decision to allow the team to move forward as a counter-attacking threat.
Ultimately, Steve Walsh suggested that Lukaku wasn’t in it for the team and any player who begins to believe they are bigger than the club should be moved on. His comments also raise questions about world-class midfielder Paul Pogba, but with their lack of midfield options, it is unlikely he will be going anywhere in the near future.