Football Features

Man Utd might need a Romelu Lukaku replacement – so who do they sign?

By Steve Jennings

Published: 13:17, 5 June 2019 | Updated: 7:54, 30 July 2019

Romelu Lukaku looks to be on his way out of Manchester United.

The Belgian has scored 42 goals in 96 appearances across two seasons for United. Those aren’t terrible numbers by any means but his form has been patchy, especially since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over. No one will ever forget his performance in Paris as United did the impossible, but that was one of precious few highs.

With that in mind, reports suggest Lukaku is keen to move to Italy, where Inter Milan are said to be waiting for him. Juventus are also rumoured to be interested. And while United won’t miss him desperately as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have usurped him in Solskjaer’s pecking order, they will certainly need a replacement striker.

But which path do the Red Devils go down? They’ve missed out on their ultimate signing of Antoine Griezmann (for the third summer in a row) so should they attempt to bring in an established, world-class forward to immediately transform their attack? Or will a more realistic, affordable route be the plan of action? Failing that, United may decide to take a bit of a risk with a wildcard alternative. We’ve had a look at just a few of Solskjaer’s options for replacing Lukaku below.

Dream: Gareth Bale

Given the burgeoning career of Marcus Rashford (who is still just 21-years-old) and Anthony Martial’s glowing pre-season form playing in a central role, the idea that Manchester United need a true no. 9 to replace Gareth Bale is probably misplaced. Obviously neither man has scored more than 20 goals in a single season, but then they’ve never gotten an entire campaign to play up-top.

Giving them that chance up-top would be very on-brand for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United, but how do you replace Lukaku? You dream big and go for Gareth Bale. The Welsh wing wonder is currently on the outs at Real Madrid for reasons no one can really understand, and United would be an ideal exit for player and club.

Sure, he’d have to spend a season in the Europa League, but with a talent as immense as Bale’s in an attack with the likes of Martial and Rashford – it’d surely be just a single season before they got back into the Champions League. Hell, Bale could even lead the assault on the Europa League, he excels in cup competitions after all, and complete his trophy cabinet whilst getting back into the big time.

Bale fits United perfectly. They’ve tried to sign him so many times over the years and even though he’s now 30, for The Red Devils as currently constituted that actually counts as a plus. Bale would come in as the experienced world-beater to help guide United’s young forwards like Rashford, Martial as well as Mason Greenwood. There’s no one in the squad that couldn’t benefit from his mentoring, and this would allow Bale to be comfortable and beloved as he has never really been in Madrid.

Moreover, with Lukaku moving on, Martial can take back the no. 9 shirt for himself and leave the no. 11 free for Bale to walk into. On paper it all makes so much sense. But in reality Bale’s injury-prone nature and colossal wage demands leaves this deal as a dream. With United seemingly having to sell just to get Harry Maguire over the line, spending untold sums on a striker seems like a fantasy.

Realistic: Wissam Ben Yedder

Whilst Gareth Bale would cost a fortune in both transfer fee and wages as well as be an unorthodox replacement for a centre-forward. Wissam Ben Yedder, an true goalscorer, could prove to be just as effective for a fraction of the price.

United fans will remember Ben Yedder all too well: the striker came off the bench for Sevilla in 2018 to score two goals in four minutes at Old Trafford to send Mourinho’s side crashing out of the Champions League in dramatic fashion. Since then, Ben Yedder has been on the club’s radar and he himself is clearly open to the moved, saying: “I want to see how far I can go and it is the right time (to leave) […] but it will also be Sevilla who decide.”

The 28-year-old is only 5 ft 7 in, meaning he clearly won’t offer the same aerial prowess as Lukaku, but he’s perhaps a better fit with the way Solskjaer wants to play. Quick, creative and two-footed, Ben Yedder offers far more than just a goal threat. Last season he registered nine assists and created 45 chances: Lukaku made no assists and created half the number of chances.

Solskjaer is clearly a fan of counter-attacking football, and Ben Yedder fits this mould perfectly: last season, no La Liga player made more fast breaks than he did (10). With a reported release clause of just £35.9 million (under half of what United should receive for Lukaku), Ben Yedder offers a realistic yet dynamic alternative to the outgoing Belgian.

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Wildcard: Richarlison

It was seen as a bit of risk when Everton parted ways with a club-record £50m to sign Richarlison from Watford last summer. But the Brazilian eased fears of flopping by hitting the ground running for his new club, finishing his debut campaign on Merseyside with 14 goals in all competitions.

In total, 13 of those goals came in the Premier League as Richarlison helped the Toffees finish eighth. That means there will be no European football at Goodison Park next season. Could that be a factor in Richarlison’s mind if the possibility of another transfer arises this summer?

Probably not. Richarlison has been linked with Manchester United and Barcelona, but when recently asked about the reported interest in his services from the two European giants, he revealed he is happy at Everton: “It’s a nice feeling when you get praise for your good work, but I’m not thinking about a transfer at the moment. I’ve just arrived at Everton. I’m happy here.”

But with United urgently attempting to improve their squad, Everton could receive a massive bid for Richarlison. And if that offer is accepted, Richarlison will have a big decision to make.

United must think carefully, too. At just 22, Richarlison still has plenty of time to improve and he could prosper all the more from joining one of the country’s biggest clubs. But there is always the risk a young player will not kick on, and in Richarlison’s case his goalscoring has been inconsistent enough that, for the money Everton will likely demand, the Brazilian may not be worth it.

Squawka Suggests: Krzysztof Piatek

AC Milan and Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek

When you look at United’s young forward line, the one thing you can say it is lacking is goals. Obviously there’s a chance Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial could up their goal output given the central striking role, but there’s not a massive body of evidence that they will bag the amount of goals United need to make it back to the big time.

Romelu Lukaku is more of a traditional No.9, and United might be keen to recruit a similar type of striker. AC Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek will is big and tall just like Lukaku, but is quicker across the ground and is a natural born goalscorer.

The Poland international scored 30 goals across all competitions in 2018/19. He hit 19 in 21 for Genoa, then moved mid-season to Milan where he bagged 11 in 21. Neither side was a prolific attacking outfit yet Piatek was a ruthless goalscoring presence with an impressive shot conversion of 22.45% (

Obviously the fact that Piatek has just joined Milan could make any deal hard to negotiate. But given that the Rossoneri will not play any European football this season and are far from a lock to get back there in the future could tempt Piatek to move to United. After all, imagine a goalscorer like Piatek at the head of United’s relentless press and rapid counter-attacks? Combining with the likes of Rashford, Martial, Daniel James and even young Mason Greenwood. United would have proper blink-and-you’ll-miss speed.

If he were to sign, Piatek would fit nicely into Manchester United’s great history of lethal goalscoring strikers. A legacy going back all the way to the start of the Premier League era. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Mark Hughes. Piatek makes so much sense.