Manchester United did not bring in a replacement for the departed Romelu Lukaku because there was concern such a move would block Mason Greenwood’s pathway, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Lukaku left United on the Premier League’s transfer deadline day in a deal Omnisport understands to be worth £73million, bringing an end to a protracted saga.
The Belgium international had seemed close to joining Inter and Juventus at various times over the close season, before eventually the Nerazzurri got the deal done on Thursday, subsequently handing him Mauro Icardi’s number nine jersey despite the Argentina striker still being at the club.
Lukaku found himself replaced in the United starting XI last term after Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho, and a departure had long looked likely.
United failed to secure a replacement for him despite links with Wissam Ben Yedder, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic – Solskjaer puts the club’s reticence down to their trust in 17-year-old Greenwood, who impressed in pre-season after a sterling campaign in the youth team and second string.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday’s Premier League opener with Chelsea, Solskjaer said: “It was time now for Rom [Lukaku] to go, because I think we got a good deal, he’s happy, so I think both parties ended that deal as it should be.
“Rom was injured for a while this pre-season, didn’t participate, so I just hope for him he’ll get a good start at Inter.
“Of course, Rom has a good record and stats. He’s one of the top number nines around when you want to play with that kind of striker, a target man.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 9, 2019
“For me, I’m very confident that we’ll get goals from [Anthony] Martial and [Marcus] Rashford, [Daniel] James will create, I’m sure Jesse Lingard will get more. We have a different attacking set-up this month.
“Towards the end of last season we didn’t score a lot of goals and you do think players will have [more of] an impact.
“And Mason Greenwood’s pathway would have been a lot more different if we had another forward there, and I believe Mason is going to be playing and involved a lot, and when he is, he’s going to score goals.”
Speculation throughout the close season hinted at issues between United and Lukaku, particularly around his leaking of confidential training data on social media and reportedly refusing to return to the club after training with Anderlecht this week.
But Solskjaer insists his relationship with Lukaku never turned sour.
“I have always had a good relationship with Rom, open and honest,” Solskjaer added.
“We’ve spoken to each other openly and frankly and have no issue between me and Rom, but we are now obviously very happy with who’s here [at the club].”
United host Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.
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