Romelu Lukaku transfer leaves Manchester United easy decisions – Samuel Lockhurst

“His body is in Manchester but his mind is on Milan,” said a confidant of Romelu Lukaku three years ago. Lukaku has uploaded a photo to his Instagram account of him wearing a black and blue training jersey amid interest from Inter Milan. His agent, Federico Pastorello, was scrambling to complete a transfer deal before Manchester United moved to a time zone seven hours ahead of the UK.

Lukaku didn’t get his way and was named to United’s pre-season tour squad to Australia and Asia. United landed in Perth on July 8 and returned to Manchester on July 26. From Australia to China, via Singapore, Lukaku has not played a minute in four matches.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has repeatedly claimed that Lukaku was injured. Lukaku is mentioned at nearly every press conference and the answers become so unconvincing that they are hardly worth reporting.

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United knew Lukaku wanted out and were ready to let him go, provided Inter make an acceptable offer. United were reluctant to lose the striker who had paid £75m to sign him two years ago, but their position was futile.

Lukaku abandoned public diplomacy again in Europe. He uploaded sensitive training data on Twitter that ridiculed Luke Shaw’s “top speed” and days later went without permission, appearing at the former Anderlecht club. That was United’s breaking point and they took a slight loss, selling Lukaku for just over £73m.

Chelsea have brought Lukaku back to Milan, avoiding the fuss of being persuaded to enter UCLA’s Drake Stadium for pre-season next month. The United staff who have shadowed Lukaku across two continents will do well to highlight the plight of Eric ten Hag as they prepare to put the finishing touches on their pre-season squad. Weights and Electrons come close to breaking the double digits and maintaining the resale value front is completely useless for a club notorious for selling players.

Most of United’s expenses – if any – are likely to be on loan, so there is no significant negotiating position to weaken. Signing clubs often cover the majority of a player’s salaries.

Four trips and trips to two different continents also increase the chance of contracting Covid-19. Dean Henderson, who was already out the door, wasn’t fit for the match for two months after being signed last year. Covid symptoms vary drastically but United will have to take into account the risk of being banned from the exit if the player is down.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams, Eric Bailey, Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are all available, but the prospect of them all leaving their passports in their drawers is fantastic. United do not expect to sign a central defender before they meet in the departure hall at Manchester Airport on July 8, so at least one of Bayley, Jones and Tuanzebe will have to travel.

United are willing to sell one, or both, of Bailly and Tuanzebe
United are willing to sell one, or both, of Bailly and Tuanzebe

Bayley made no secret of his desire to leave and his dissatisfaction with Harry Maguire’s privileges came out publicly in April. Ten Hag can do without that friction in his first team. Jones finished last season ahead of Bailey in the center back position but United cannot entrust him with a fourth-choice spot. Tuanzebe would be a logical inclusion as it is probably the easiest fee to get the three position halves.

People at United described Anthony Martial’s situation as a “big problem”. Reflecting United and Martial’s standings, no 26-year-old French attacking player has earned £58m at the age of 19. Possibility to be burdened with Martial when closed.

Marcus Rashford “can’t wait to go” to United, and the threat he had in mind about his future in March is a hollow one. United are optimistic about Rashford’s return and feel he has an advantage over Martial as he has put in a performance recently.

Solskjaer named a 28-man squad in 2019 and Ten Hag could easily match that number without adding or the extra burden of indignation that youngsters might be. Lukaku’s fake injury on the tour allowed Mason Greenwood to play and score against Inter.

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