Just a day after Manchester United crashed out of the Europa League, their former striker Romelu Lukaku showed them exactly what they were missing.
The Belgian brought his season tally to 33 goals in 50 games for Inter Milan as Antonio Conte’s side sidelined Shakhtar Donetsk to set up a showdown with United winners Sevilla.
That left former midfielder Paul Ince to bet United still wish they had the striker in BT Sport studio and many Red Devils fans lamenting what could have been had he stayed.
BBC Sport is evaluating another superb performance in what was a stellar first campaign for Lukaku at the Nerazzurri.
On the original Ronaldo’s pigtails
|Romelu Lukaku’s statistics in all competitions for Inter Milan and Manchester United|
|Manchester United||Inter Milan|
|Minutes per goal||168,4||124,2|
|Minutes per assistance||589,3||683,2|
|Total implications of objectives||54||39|
|Implications in minutes per objective||131||105,1|
The £ 75million fee that brought Lukaku to Manchester United from Everton made him the fifth most expensive player of all time.
A total of 27 goals in his first United season under Jose Mourinho made the investment worthwhile, before the wheels left his United career the following campaign.
His second season, in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho halfway through, netted 15 goals, periods out of the squad and signs of dissatisfaction from the player.
Since his £ 74million move to Inter he has thrived.
Ahead of Monday’s game, Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport featured him on one of his three consecutive days – a testament to a rejuvenated superstar who rewarded coverage by becoming the first player to score in 10 consecutive games of the Europa League thanks to its tie up against Shakhtar.
If he scores in the final, he will equal a record held by a true greats of the game – the total of 34 goals Brazil striker Ronaldo managed in his first season with the club in 1997-98.
Ronaldo would have been proud to have scored his two goals on Monday, two showcases for his pace, power and calm finish – qualities United could have dearly done with luck after luck in their 2-1 loss to Sevilla on Sunday.
But don’t take our word for it …
‘I bet Man Utd wish they had it now’
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince on BT Sport: “He looks good, slim – at Man United he didn’t look like he could move around the park, here he’s running right in front of people. You wouldn’t see him do that to United. I was in better shape when I was at Inter, whether it was the weather, the food, whatever they give you.
“He looks like a different animal. We know he can finish but wow I bet they wish they had him now for sure.
“Lukaku didn’t struggle, he scored goals for Manchester United. But I felt under Mourinho that he was not happy. Sometimes you find the right person, the right country, the right club, the family is happy. If you are happy. You will play. ”
Former United midfielder Owen Hargreaves at BT Sport: “He played like the perfect center forward. He looks sharp.
“I don’t think we’ve ever questioned his finish, but at 27 he looks like he’s the perfect age. It shows that you have to find the right person for you – for some reason it was not there at Man United.
“I think he got a raw deal with Man United for some reason. I think he felt he had a point to prove all the time. He deserved a little better.
“He almost played like he carried a burden and now he looks like he’s in a place where he’s really confident. “
‘Ole did a good job’
After Monday’s game, Lukaku spoke of his own achievements and former club with all the ease and grace of a man who scores for fun and has a final to look forward to on Friday.
“By the minute everything is fine but we continue to fight,” he said. “Records are there to be broken but we want to win. We have to prepare very well, recover and play again.
On Manchester United’s loss to Sevilla, he added: “Man United have done their best. They had a good season and Ole [Gunnar Solksjaer] did a good job.
“Mason Greenwood arrives and Marcus Rashford. I’m really happy for them. They look good for next season so I have no doubts. “
Should United have sold Lukaku? – What you said and voted
Stu: Lukaku seems to have become a better player since leaving Man United.
Paul: Lukaku, what a player. Man Utd made a mistake in selling him. Don’t get me wrong, Rashford, Martial, and Greenwood are great with a lot of potential too, but when things aren’t going well they’re too similar. Lukaku gives you at least a Plan B with his aerial threat.
Amrul: The problem with Lukaku was that he looked disinterested from United, he wouldn’t press defenses or enter the box with hunger and desire. Inter Milan are just happy with everything Lukaku gives them.
Jack: Lukaku is clearly better than anyone in this current Man U Front 3, he just didn’t have any luck with terrible tactics and management while he was there!
George: Join the Manchester United team.