This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
You just knew this was going to happen wasn’t it? Manchester United’s decision to get rid of Romelu Lukaku in the summer transfer window brought some consternation from a section of the Old Trafford faithful, and it was understandable to say the least. The Belgium international may have not had the greatest campaigns last season (he scored just 15 times across all competitions), but he remained a proven forward in the Premier League. To then not replace him, made it even more eyebrow-raising.
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And now, the struggles of Marcus Rashford up top have only served to heighten the potential regret of letting Lukaku go. The England international has scored just three times in the league and only once from open play, while the latter has hit the ground running in Italian football with Inter. The graphic below simply shows the extent of United’s foolishness. It really is a case of look away now, Red Devils fans.
Leading the line for Antonio Conte’s men in Serie A, Lukaku has yet to disappoint his new employers. The Belgian has struck three times in just his first six league games for the club, and all of them have been trademark predatory finishes. His goal on his debut for the club was essentially a tap-in – the exact kind of goals United are desperately missing at the moment, and Solskjaer himself has urged his strikers to score more of.
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Perhaps most dishearteningly however for the Red Devils, is the stat that shows he has averaged one tackle per game in the league.
Doesn’t sound like much, but for a forward, and for what Lukaku produced in his two seasons with United, that is particularly impressive. The 26-year-old averaged just o.2 tackles and 0.3 tackles per game in consecutive Premier League campaigns, whilst Solskjaer has appeared to prefer an approach that focuses on pressing from the front – not the kind of style their former forward had made a name for.
But at Inter, and under the demanding gaze of the manic Conte, the Belgium international has bought into the off-the-ball work. He has hustled opposition defenders, used his sheer physical presence to win battles against centre-backs, and led the line with aplomb.
Forget the fact he has scored three goals, or that his shots and key passes per game have gone up from his United days. It’s his tackling numbers that really prove why Solskjaer passed judgement over Lukaku far too quickly. It seems it was never the case that the Belgian couldn’t press from the front, he just needed the right man to get it out of him.