It was hard to imagine what Romelu Lukaku could have been at Manchester United when he watched him last season.
Lukaku was in sparkling form for Inter Milan and he thrived under Antonio Conte. Lukaku scored 30 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions – Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo were the only other strikers in the world to operate at that level – and he almost single-handedly propelled Inter to the Serie A title, securing a ended the club’s 11-year wait.
When Lukaku left Goodison Park for Old Trafford in 2017, he hoped his goals would end the Reds’ wait for the Premier League title, but it wouldn’t work out for Lukaku in Manchester. There was no abundance of goals, trophies or success.
There was an up and down relationship with Jose Mourinho, with disappointment and doubts about his physical condition.
Lukaku arrived at United for £75million and his first season at the club was simply satisfying for a player who had paid such a transfer fee. He made 33 Premier League starts that campaign and became one of Mourinho’s unadulterated players.
Soon there would be trouble in paradise. United started the 2018-19 season slowly and Lukaku was no exception, scoring just six goals in their first 16 Premier League games. He was also goalless in the Champions League group stage and looked vulnerable on the pitch sulking. Mourinho had invested in Lukaku and the player’s poor form was rather symbolic.
Mourinho’s reign came to an end and he failed to bring out the best in his players. Liverpool was his reckoning – ironically it should have been the same for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer years later – but his departure wasn’t necessarily good news for Lukaku.
Solskjaer preferred Marcus Rashford to Lukaku and the Belgian had to settle for a lesser role, although he often took his chances when he got them, but Lukaku was not the player United thought they were buying and threatened the inevitable.
Inter Milan were interested and Lukaku wanted to leave. The deal was closed for £73 million, United almost got their money back and the episode was over. Lukaku left with 42 goals in 96 games, but it was hard not to see his time at the club as disappointing.
Lukaku then exploded at Inter Milan, as had been hoped at Old Trafford. His strength and natural ability to punish matches from the smallest of openings made him a deadly, prolific asset in Italy and he emphatically rediscovered his best form.
The center forward also looked lean and athletic. The difference in his performance and his way of thinking with his time at United was huge. Lukaku also excelled at the European Championship and his move to Chelsea followed after the tournament.
Lukaku was in the form of his life – having scored 64 goals in 95 appearances for Inter – and joining one of the Reds’ biggest rivals in the Premier League. It had the potential to be a disaster for United, but it was actually quite the opposite.
How did you rate Lukaku at United? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Belgian has since failed to return to the Premier League, scoring just three league goals this season under Thomas Tuchel. Lukau has been seen on the bench at Chelsea more than he has scored and that is good news for United.
Inter Milan’s Lukaku performance at Chelsea is said to have left those at United looking on with a sense of regret.
Instead, Lukaku is performing like he was at United and maybe he’s just not the same player in the Premier League.