Graham Ruthven: Selling Lukaku would be a mistake by Man United

The rumours are that the big Belgium is on his way out of Old Trafford, but after a disappointing season, it’s easy to make him a scapegoat.


There are only two players currently active in the Premier League who have scored more goals than Romelu Lukaku.

Besides Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane, though, the Belgian is the most established of proven goalscorers in the division. Although given the criticism Lukaku often faces and the recent reports of his impending exit from Manchester United you wouldn’t know it.

Indeed, it seems the 26-year-old is on his way out of Old Trafford with Inter Milan believed to have agreed personal terms with Lukaku ahead of a transfer this summer.

Man United are making moves to overhaul their squad and the Belgian striker has apparently been identified as one of those who needs to be shipped out.

Romelu Lukaku Man United

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Selling Lukaku would be a mistake, though.

Goalscorers are extremely hard to come by and the Belgian is one of the most consistent at finding the net in the European game. What’s more, he’s more suited to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s favoured style of play than most people are willing to give him credit for.

Lukaku is frequently the victim of typecasting. Fans see a physically strong, imposing striker and therefore put him down as a frontman to hit with crosses and long balls. Jose Mourinho saw the Belgian this way and hence never got the best out of a forward he paid £75 million to sign in the summer of 2017.

The true nature of Lukaku’s game is somewhat different. He is at his best and his most dangerous when he is allowed to stretch his legs and run towards goal. Roberto Martinez recognised this at the 2018 World Cup, using Lukaku as a very fluid centre forward as Belgium made the semi-finals.

It’s no coincidence that this month-long stretch saw the 26-year-old find top form.

Martinez also made use of Lukaku’s versatility, even using him on the right wing for the quarter-final win over Brazil.

This drew the attention of the opposition defence out to the flank, creating space in the middle for others.

The move made Lukaku was a hugely effective outlet against one of the World Cup favourites.

Solskjaer has followed this lead to a certain extent, deploying Lukaku on the wing on more than one occasion.

The former Chelsea and Everton player is a much better crosser of the ball than many really acknowledge – see his exceptional delivery for Jesse Lingard against Chelsea last season or his cross for Chris Smalling which very nearly produced a late winner at home to Liverpool this season.

It’s true that if United are to once again scale the heights of the English and European game they will require an upgrade on Lukaku, but should it really be a priority to replace him this summer of all summers, when some reports claim as many as 14 players could leave the club?

Lukaku still has something to offer.

Of course, it could be that United are selling him to free up funds and clear space on the wage bill for other transfer targets.

It might also be the case that the Belgian wants to play a more central role and with no guarantee of being a first-team pick for the biggest of matches next season, he is pushing for a move.

Undeniably peculiar is the sense that Lukaku remains an unfulfilled talent despite his impressive scoring record over the years.

He has yet to find a team or a manager (perhaps with the exception of Martinez) who has managed to harness him. Man Utd looked to be a good fit at first and yet he never quite flourished at Old Trafford.

Before Solskjaer sanctions the sale of Lukaku, though, he must consider who will fill the scoring void left by the Belgian?

Marcus Rashford has been handed the centre forward role under the Norwegian, but isn’t yet a consistent finisher. The likes of Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez certainly can’t be relied on for goals.

In their current state, can Man Utd really afford to lose Lukaku?

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What do you think?