Romelu Lukaku: What I learned from Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Man Utd
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has revealed what former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic taught him when they played together at Old Trafford.
Lukaku has had a mixed season so far but has seen his form pick up since the arrival of caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in December.
Lukaku, a man still learning? Five things you need to know…
- Manchester United signed Lukaku in 2017 from Everton for a transfer fee of £75 million.
- The 25-year-old has scored 42 goals in 89 appearances for the Red Devils.
- This season, Lukaku has scored only 12 Premier League goals for United in 27 outings.
- Half of those have come since the arrival of Solskjaer, with Lukaku also scoring twice against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
- Ibrahimovic scored 29 goals in 53 games for United but a serious knee injury curtailed his progress.
Although he is already Belgium’s all-time record goalscorer – courtesy of 45 goals in 79 games – the jury is still out as to whether Lukaku ca be regarded as world-class.
A significant factor that may have helped him take steps in the right direction was seeking advice from former teammate Ibrahimovic, who knows how to perform consistently on football’s biggest stage.
Speaking to United’s official website, Lukaku spoke of how the Swedish legend helped him in Manchester United training sessions.
He said: “Everything I learned from Zlatan was great, from his stories that he told me when he was at Inter, AC Milan, Barcelona and even Ajax, to being on the field working with him, seeing how competitive he was.
“I remember one training session. Because we were both strikers, we were never on the same team and, at one point, there was a 50/50 challenge. He went full-on against me!
“That is when I knew this guy wants to compete and this guy wants to fight for his spot. That is why he changed me. It was an eye-opener. The guy had to fight to be in the position he is in.
“So, I learned just to focus, work hard and enjoy it as well. Because he is a guy who you can have a lot fun with as well and having his personality in the dressing room was good.”
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Glimpses of the striker within
The main criticism Lukaku has experienced at United is inconsistency. The centre-forward started the season off in decent goalscoring form, netting four goals in the opening five games of the season, but then his form dipped.
During United’s struggles under former boss Jose Mourinho, Lukaku’s performance were widely questioned as faith in the Portuguese manager’s project waned.
Lukaku went from mid-September until December without scoring in the Premier League before Mourinho was relinquished of his managerial duties.
Since Solskjaer has come in, Lukaku has had to fight for his place in the United side, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both improving themselves under the watchful eye of the United legend.
His excellent performance as United shocked Europe by progressing past PSG in the Champions League is evidence that on his day Lukaku is almost unplayable.
However, he may need to solve the consistency puzzle if he is to become first choice under Solskjaer in the long term.