Romelu Lukaku arrived at Manchester United from Everton for a massive transfer fee. He cost the Red Devils £75million, which was, and still is, an astronomical fee. And in all honesty, it cannot be argued that he did not command it.
After all, he was in sensational form at Everton. He became the 4th player to score 80 Premier League goals before the age of 24, after Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, and Michael Owen. If he turned out like any of them, a club would be happy to pay that amount.
But when he did arrive at Old Trafford, at the age of 24, it was obvious that the fans came to expect an awful lot from him. Being the No.9 at United is not an easy job and the player is under the microscope to a larger extent than a striker at any other club.
The club’s history is painted with glorious achievements and trophies. The fans have seen their team dominate football for decades. Hence, one could argue that Lukaku would have been under a little more pressure at United. He joined them in 2017, four years after Sir Alex Ferguson left. The club had declined significantly and were far away from title talks.
A player who arrives with a big reputation and for a big fee automatically becomes the focus to lead the team to glory. However, his start was not bad, in all honesty. Lukaku bagged 11 goals in his first 10 outings for United. But it all fell off from there. (h/t Transfermarkt)
Difficult to justify starting Romelu Lukaku without goals
That run was followed by just 31 goals in his next 86 games. That is not the worst tally in the world, but it not justifiable of the big transfer fee involved, especially at a club like Manchester United. During his time, just as they also do now, United mostly preferred lining up with one sole striker up front.
That was usually Lukaku. And it worked like a peach for most of the first season. Despite a slow end to the season, the Belgian international still bagged 27 goals.
Nevertheless, things already started to look bleak for him. The club has historically been about taking the game to the opposition, not sitting back and waiting to pounce when they get the chance. And unfortunately for Lukaku, he was not assisting his teammates either.
He only managed one league assist in his second season at the club. Moreover, he had just 1 goal in 24 appearances against Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur, making a case for him to be a flat-track bully.
A change of manager
Mourinho was duly sacked just a few months into his second season. He made way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to take the helm in December 2018. Lukaku was given time off at around the first month of Solskjaer’s reign for the birth of his child. (h/t The Sun)
By the time he was back, Marcus Rashford was starting to cement his place as the team’s first-choice striker. The change in his position from being a winger to a centre-forward was quite evident.
Lukaku, on the other hand, was moved to the wings. And with his questionable first touch, it was always going to be difficult to play there. He was then sold at the end of the season. Solskjaer went on to stick with the frontline of Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Anthony Martial.
It did not work out for the club and the player himself towards the end of his United career. He was sold to Inter Milan at the end of that season. His time at the club was largely underwhelming, but it was not all his fault.
A different system, heightened expectations, change of managers, all contributed towards his decline at the club. He is now bossing it in Italy, however. Lukaku has 56 goals for Inter in 80 appearances, which could mean that Manchester United just didn’t suit him.
It doesn’t look like it was Premier League’s fault either. After all, he scored consistently for teams like Everton and West Bromwich Albion in the top division.