That leaves three goals, scored against Barcelona, Roma and Bayer Leverkusen this quarter. The former Manchester United striker is receiving a lot of praise for his debut campaign at Inter Milan and is on the verge of an astonishing reunion with his former side in the Europa League final.
But would Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reverse his decision to sell Lukaku last summer, should the opportunity arise?
Belgian Inter statistics show little has changed in his style and form, accusations of Lukaku, the “tyrant on the flat track”, persist. New No.9 Anthony Martial may have scored fewer goals (albeit on fewer appearances) than Lukaku this season, but the aggregate number of strikes from United’s new front three – which emerged after Lukaku’s departures and Alexis Sanchez towards Inter – gives a clue to Solskjaer’s response.
Between them, Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood replaced Lukaku, all with stints in center-forward position, although it was the Frenchman who made it his own.
They total 61 goals in all competitions between them, almost double Lukaku the “traditional No. 9” this season, but above all more than four times Lukaku’s total at United last season (15). Each of the three is having their best season on the US side and the cap is high for their entire future, aged 24, 22 and 18 respectively. Lukaku is 27 and has fewer years to stay at his best, with strikers typically peaking at 26 statistically.
The fact that Lukaku only managed 15 goals for United last season and his increased goal tally against the little lights of Italian football is instructive. He has failed to score in six appearances against his top four Serie A teams this season, Juventus, Atalanta and Lazio, while United have shone in big games thanks to their blazing fast frontline.
There is no doubt that selling Lukaku to a big European rival was a risk, although allowing Ashley Young and Alexis Sanchez to lead in the same way was easier.
The fact that the three thrived alongside Antonio Conte probably says more about the Serie A standard, as there weren’t too many at Old Trafford who were clamoring for them to stay.
Comment on United’s summer transfer operations here:
Dimitar Berbatov is among those who admire Lukaku as a player and have sent United a warning ahead of the potential Europa League final between the two sides.
“Lukaku received a lot of criticism in Manchester, and he was right to leave. Look at him now, he’s been fantastic for Inter, ”said the former United striker.
“I always said that I loved him as a player, that if he had any chances he would score goals. He is very fast and very strong, and his goal on Monday [versus Leverkusen] was spectacular. He is the main danger for those against whom they play.
“Inter also have Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young, who will know United very well. If they play against United in the final, these players will want revenge, to show United that they were wrong to let them go. “
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Revenge is one thing, but Solskjaer is more about method and his United project looks a lot more promising without Lukaku, Sanchez and Young. In their place, Greenwood, Martial and Rashford thrived, while another starlet from Brandon Williams’ academy effectively replaced Young as a left-back option.
The Norwegian regularly talks about his long-term ambitions but he would be lying if he said winning the Europa League doesn’t matter. If United can get past Sevilla and advance to the final, it’s likely that familiar faces await them. It will matter a lot more then.
This would be the ultimate opportunity for Solskjaer to inspire his current united troops and prove he was right from the start, especially about Lukaku.