When you play for a club that has negativity swirling around at every nook and corner, it won’t be a surprise if you get bashed unfairly. That is natural in today’s era of social media, which ignores contexts a vast majority of times.
It isn’t to say that Romelu Lukaku doesn’t deserve criticism for how things have turned out to be for him at Man United, but a good margin of it is not his fault.
When he arrived at the club from Everton for a fee of 75 million euros in the summer of 2017, the expectations were high. Not because of the fee but because United needed a striker. He wasn’t the striker Jose Mourinho wanted, but in a team that had an identity for probably the second time in six years, Lukaku played very well for the Red Devils.
Many wanted the Belgian to be the club’s Player of the Season in the 2017-18 campaign, as he was the club’s prime goalscorer and performer. The play was focused on the centre-forward. He had the service to score. While he wasn’t perfect, but players around him played well enough that season to give him the opportunities to score. And more than often than not, Lukaku did score.
That season was a one in which there seemed to be stability at Man United- something that is considered unique ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Mourinho had handed the side an identity to play with. That season, Lukaku did very well.
But this season, the stability has gone. Ever since the season started, there was nothing normal about the club. Everyone suffered. Everyone’s shoulders dropped. Mourinho lost the players and lost the support of the board. The side suffered and form hit rock bottom.
When Mourinho was sacked, there was a brief period under Ole Solskjaer when United’s attacking players began enjoying themselves. They created opportunities. During that phase, Lukaku impressed again. The play revolved around the attacking players, who had the license to thrill and create. So did Lukaku.
But as soon as the morale left, the attacking players could not give Lukaku enough service to feed on. No doubt that the Belgian has been poor himself but a striker needs enough the play to be suited to himself to thrive. He needs players to feed him in because not every striker can be as good as someone like the Brazilian Ronaldo. There are target men who need players to create for them. That is why Lukaku thrives on playing for Belgium. He needs players to create and the play to benefit him instead of someone like Paul Pogba.
He has to be the focus of play and not a sideman for things on the pitch.
The fact that Solskjaer does not see him as the focal point of a team that he can possibly form around someone like Marcus Rashford, means that Lukaku should leave. At a club like Inter, who will play pragmatic football under Antonio Conte, Lukaku will be assured of getting service like how strikers always do under the Italian. Be it Diego Costa, Mirko Vucinic or Lukaku.