From £75m star to laughing stock – why Lukaku failed at Man Utd

first_imgIt began two years ago by the side of a swimming pool at a luxury Los Angeles apartment, celebrating with best friend Paul Pogba as he became a £75 million Manchester United player.But Romelu Lukaku’s Old Trafford career is ending far sooner than he might have expected, and in ignominious fashion to boot. Warned that he would be expected to train with United’s under-23s, he stayed in his native Belgium to work out with former club Anderlecht until a deal was done to move him to Inter.Just where did it all go wrong for Lukaku in a United shirt? Article continues below Editors’ Picks Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? He actually started like an express train, bagging 11 goals in his first 10 outings in the famous red shirt, but would score a more modest 31 times in his remaining 86 appearances as a United player.Even during that early hot streak something just didn’t sit right about him as a Manchester United footballer, not least because vocal supporters were busy causing racism controversies in their choice of song for Lukaku rather than celebrating his magnificent scoring form.And questions were very quickly asked about his suitability to the team when he wasn’t netting with regularity. Without the goals it was hard to make a bulletproof case for him as an unequivocal first choice at the head of United’s line-up.Jose Mourinho said Lukaku should be considered “untouchable” after fans at Old Trafford had reacted with groans following one particularly disappointing showing against Tottenham just a few months into his United career. But the Belgian was never to find anything like the same form from his opening spell at the club and when things got bad, they felt really bad.Under Mourinho there was a lack of the kind of service on which he would normally thrive. United were cagey and laboured in their approach to attacking opponents, leaving Lukaku with few opportunities to get on the end of telling crosses or burst off the shoulder of a retreating defender. Not that he helped himself either. His first touch was letting him down, he seemed to quickly drop his head when things weren’t right and his conversion rate was often unconvincing.Something just didn’t quite fit.Romelu Lukaku, Jose MourinhoIn his entire United career, Lukaku would score only once against one of the other top-six clubs, the opener in a 2-1 win over champions Chelsea in February 2018. The fact that it was his only strike in a total of 24 games in all competitions against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Tottenham defined him as a flat-track bully. It didn’t help that a foot injury made him a passenger of a substitute in the FA Cup final loss to the Blues to ensure that his debut campaign ended with a whimper.Coming back from a run to the World Cup semi-finals with Belgium he just couldn’t get going. His first two starts of the new season were memorable for dreadful Lukaku misses in United defeats to Brighton and Spurs, both of them quickly becoming popular memes across social media. By December he had tallied only four goals in 18 games.Lukaku made an appeal for a better understanding of his needs from his United team-mates when asked to address his lack of goals.“With Belgium I’ve been playing for 10 years, since I was 16. Players know me much more,” he told reporters in October 2018.“Here, I still think my teamwork between myself and my team-mates can improve and be much better. It’s something that we’re working on. The players need to know me and know my movement. When that starts clicking I think the results I have with Belgium will also come here.”Paul Scholes, speaking to BT Sport the following month, suggested Lukaku might actually have been trying too hard and losing his value to the side as a result.“It seems like he thinks he has to be a footballer, that he has to come into a number 10 role,” Scholes said. “He doesn’t, that’s the last thing that he needs to do. He’s not got the ability to do that.“His strengths are running in behind, getting on the end of crosses, and the midfield players have to tell him to do that. ‘Don’t come in here, don’t come as a number 10, you can’t play.’“I don’t mean disrespect to him. He’s someone who has to run in behind, and he can finish. He can score goals.”Romelu Lukaku Manchester United statsMourinho’s sacking led to the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just as Lukaku was given time off for the birth of his first child. By the time the 26-year-old rejoined the fray Rashford had already become the apple of the Norwegian’s eye.Lukaku would get his chances, most memorably grabbing a hat-trick of doubles in consecutive fixtures against Crystal Palace, Southampton and, most stunningly, Paris Saint-Germain, but that run was the exception that largely proved the rule. Solskjaer wanted a mobile front line capable of pulling defenders this way and that, and with the touch and dynamism to back it up. And that is not Big Rom’s type of game.Antonio Conte’s admiration of Lukaku has long been one of the biggest open secrets in football, and a move to Inter has seemed likely for most of the summer. Had he been set to have any kind of future at United he would have played at least some part in pre-season, whatever his apparent injury concerns during the trip to Australia and Asia. But his days have been numbered for a couple of months now.His decision to tweet a copy of the sprint stats of United players in training went down like a lead balloon, and reports suggest he was fined as well as being told by Solskjaer that he wasn’t wanted in first-team training sessions. His no-show this week was the last straw.Lukaku and United never felt quite like a match made in heaven, and as such their acrimonious split should come as little surprise. He scored 42 goals for the club, making him United’s top-scoring forward in both seasons. But in truth it is a tough sell trying to suggest he would have been a significant success in Solskjaer’s rebuild.It ended up being best for all concerned to just move on.last_img read more

Mens Lacrosse Ohio State buried in 124 loss to Penn State in

Ohio State then-freshman Tre Leclaire maintains possession of the ball in the first quarter against Loyola Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14, 2017 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller ReporterThe Ohio State men’s lacrosse team ran down the historic ramp into Ohio Stadium today trailing in the Big Ten standings and facing a three-game losing streak while it prepared to meet Penn State on the field needing a win.The Buckeyes (5-5, 0-1 Big Ten) didn’t get the result they wanted, however, dropping the afternoon affair 12-4 to the Nittany Lions (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten).With a season performance from sophomore goalie Colby Kneese and a dominant show in the faceoff x from sophomore midfielder Gerard Arceri, Penn State overpowered Ohio State both offensively and defensively to emerge from the game with its first conference win of the year.“Well there wasn’t a whole lot of things that we were crazy about, I mean, at the end of the day hats off to Penn State,” Ohio State head coach Nick Myers said. “At the end of the day it’s a loss and we’re going to have to circle back up and make sure we put an emphasis on the things we’ve got to do to be successful in this conference and go after our first conference win on the road.”Penn State worked tirelessly all game to command a significant seven-goal lead going into the final period — a mountain that proved too high for the Buckeye offense to overcome. The Nittany Lions’ offensive flexibility lent itself to plenty of high-quality passes, assists and goal-scoring opportunities, while their stolid defense and Kneese’s quick reflexes kept a staggering 80 percent of Ohio State’s shots out of the cage.Penn State senior midfielder Ryan Keenan dominated offensively for his team, scoring a hat-trick and putting up seven shots against Ohio State sophomore goalie Josh Kirson. Three other Lions posted at least two goals in the scorebook. Ohio State’s goals were few, but nevertheless impressive, especially given Kneese’s efficiency. In the second period, freshman attackman J.T. Bugliosi, assisted by senior attack Colin Chell, shook a defender next to the cage and went behind his back, slipping the ball past an unsuspecting Kneese. Three other Buckeyes recorded goals. Both teams put up 35 shots, but in the end it was Penn State that had more quality finishes. Meyers said the team had to take the tough decision and use it as a means for them to improve for next week’s game against No. 6 Johns Hopkins. “You’ve got to make it about you,” Meyers said. “You know, you’ve got to go back to your training and hope that your training gets you through. I mean, kid had a nice job in the goal, he certainly had a lot of saves. We have to put that on ourselves, you know, putting the ball in the net is something we’ve got to make a priority and it starts with us in terms of the repetitions that we get.”While the result might be on players’ minds in the short term, dwelling on it won’t be in their agenda as they embrace a full week of practice in preparation for another difficult conference matchup next weekend.“You’ve just gotta move past this one and get back to work this week and prepare for [Johns] Hopkins next week,” Chell said. Ohio State hits the road for its second Big Ten game and travels to Baltimore to meet Johns Hopkins (6-2, 0-0 Big Ten) at noon April 7. read more