Romelu Lukaku sealed a move away to Inter Milan this summer after a disappointing second season at Manchester United, where it became clear he wasn’t going to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first choice striker. He scored just 15 goals in 45 appearances last year after what was a largely frustrating campaign for him, with him looking way too bulky and his first touch on the decline.
Lukaku has divided the fanbase since first joining in the summer of 2017 and at times was on the receiving end of more stick than he deserved from some fans. But he has had plenty of support from us too, during that first season and from match-going fans in particular, when he scored an impressive 27 goals in 51 games.
The only criticism that was difficult for him to avoid was how infrequently he scored goals in big matches. In two seasons at United, the only goal against a top side in the league was the one he bagged against Chelsea in his first season. Last season, he scored two against PSG, in what was our best game of the season, but overall that is a pretty poor return. When you consider in that Marcus Rashford scored four goals against Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs in that same period of time, despite rarely leading the line, it puts Lukaku’s tally against the top clubs in to perspective. Jose Mourinho stuck with him as his main striker, regardless of form, yet he rarely showed up on the big occasion.
Still, his departure should have been amicable. There were plenty of United fans who wanted him sold, others who thought he should stay if we weren’t going to bring in a replacement, and those who weren’t really bothered either way. But Lukaku’s behaviour over the past few weeks has been bizarre and created a rift that didn’t need to be there.
With rumours circulating that Lukaku was preparing for a move to the Serie A, he posted a picture with his agent Federico Pastorello with the caption ‘soon to be continued’.
The following week, he leaked confidential training data about the top speeds the players had achieved, with him ranking second behind Diogo Dalot, with the caption ‘lack of pace’. It was swiftly deleted but Solskjaer was reportedly less than impressed.
It’s odd because Lukaku’s pace hasn’t really been something he has been criticised for. He’s not the fastest player about but he’s not slow either. The insecurity to feel the need to post something like that was strange, particularly when it exposed his teammates too. Luke Shaw, who was the slowest, was quick to respond on Twitter, claiming that he had only been asked to work at 70%, followed by “don’t let me start speaking on you”. It’s little wonder that his teammates didn’t have any glowing reports or fond farewells to offer Lukaku on social medial when his transfer was completed.
Gary Neville questioned Lukaku’s professionalism for allowing himself to get overweight. Whether that was through bulking up too much in the gym or otherwise, it’s clear that Lukaku is huge now compared to just a few seasons ago.
If Manchester United are trying to set a new tone and culture through the club, which Ole is trying to do, any lack of professionalism has got to be stamped upon. He didn’t want to be here anyway. Romelu Lukaku has admitted himself that he was overweight so he has removed all doubt.
He is over 100kg! [15st 10lbs] He’s a Manchester United player! Unprofessionalism is contagious.
Last week, reports suggested that Lukaku had reported to Inter Milan training overweight and was in danger of missing their first league game of the season.
Again, Lukaku let his insecurity show by posting a shirtless picture of himself saying ‘not bad for a fat boy’.
Speaking to the LightHarted Podcast with Josh Hart, in an episode recorded prior to his exit, Lukaku gave a damning appraisal of the club, claiming he left because they didn’t speak out to deny rumours that he was going to be sold.
A lot of stuff has been said where I didn’t feel protected. I felt like a lot of rumours, ‘Rom going there’, ‘they don’t want Rom’, and nobody came out to shut it down. It was for a good three, four weeks. I’m waiting for someone to come out and shut it down. It didn’t happen.
I had my conversation, told them it was better to go our separate ways. If you don’t want to protect somebody, all these rumours come out. I just wanted you to say ‘Rom is going to fight for his place’, but it never happened for four, five months.
It was all, ‘he’s got to go, he doesn’t deserve to be there’. Well OK, then I want to go now. There is fighting for your position, but also being somewhere that people want you to be.
If you’re happy, you find a way, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the bench or starting. But nobody told me that was the situation, so I thought for two, three weeks to analyse, see all shit coming out in the media. Who leaks it? Not me. Not my agent. I see it on my phone come out of nowhere.
I told them it’s not good for me to be at a place where I’m not wanted. We’re not stupid. They consider us dumb, but we are not dumb, we know who is doing leaks and stuff. I told them, you can’t be working like this, it’s better for me to go now.
He’s also been accused of taking shots at former United teammate, Anthony Martial, although he didn’t mention him by name.
“I was in Miami, there was some players who didn’t even make the cut for the World Cup,” Lukaku said. “They were fronting with the trophy. I’m like what the fuck, you didn’t even play.”
Any doubts over whether Lukaku’s sale was the right decision or not has been quashed at least, as it is clear he wasn’t going to offer anything positive to the dressing room. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford’s encouraging start to the season, both scoring two goals in the opening two games, suggests we are better off.
It’s a shame it had to come to this though, as United fans have rallied by Lukaku time and again. The comments from supporters on social media are not reflective of how he was treated inside the ground. His name was sung, even when he wasn’t performing particularly well, and it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth to see how he’s behaved since the season has ended.
But onwards and upwards. Some players have what it takes to be United players, to carry the pressure and media attention that comes with it, and others don’t. Lukaku clearly falls in to the latter category, so the sooner he moves on and stops talking about the club, the better.