Lukaku: Solskjaer’s tactical tweak convinced me to leave Man United
Romelu Lukaku has pinpointed his positional change under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the moment he knew his Manchester United career was over.
The imposing centre-forward, a big-money acquisition from Everton in 2017, was shunted out to the wing in the final months of his lean second season at Old Trafford.
Concerns over his form and fitness prompted Solskjaer to deploy Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial through the middle, a move that ultimately convinced Lukaku to depart for Inter in August.
“It was after the game against West Ham at home [on April 13] – Solskjaer decided to put me on the right wing, very wide,” Lukaku told Corriere dello Sport.
“The experience in Manchester made me mentally stronger because not everything went as I had expected. I didn’t win what I was hoping for, my performance was not entirely positive and I didn’t even feel 100 per cent wanted. Not so much from the technical staff or from my team-mates, but from the people around.
“So after the match against Chelsea, on April 28, the coach called me for a meeting and I told him what I thought, or that I wanted to leave.
“He saw on my face that I didn’t want to stay any longer and he replied that he didn’t want to hold anyone against [their will]. He understood my point of view and assured me that he would do everything possible to satisfy me. He earned my respect and, until I left Manchester, there was no problem with him.”
Lukaku holds former United team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic in even higher esteem.
The pair briefly competed for a starting spot under Jose Mourinho and could again come face-to-face if free agent Ibrahimovic completes a return to Italy, as has been speculated.
Lukaku said: “Zlatan is a warrior. We really resemble each other because we have faced difficult circumstances in our lives since we were children and when we talk we understand each other. He is one of the three smartest players I’ve met off the field.
“Not everyone knows it, but he helped me a lot when I arrived at United. He sat at the back of the team bus with me, we talked a lot and he gave me advice. If he hadn’t been injured, playing with him would have been perfect.
“Even now he is very strong, he has the quality of a champion and above all he has what we call a ‘dog mentality’, the mentality of one who never gives up. I believe he will return to Serie A.”