Football News

“I wanted a different team” — Solskjaer details Lukaku, Lingard & Smalling exits at Man Utd

By Ben Green

Published: 11:18, 18 May 2021 | Updated: 11:45, 20 September 2022

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given his reasoning behind the departures of Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, Chris Smalling and a clutch of other former Manchester United players.

Solskjaer, 48, took control of the Old Trafford dugout after Jose Mourinho’s acrimonious departure in December 2018, inheriting a real grab bag of talent, including one or two players who didn’t suit his style of play.

Since stepping into the hotseat, the Norwegian has overseen at real overhaul in the North West, which has culminated in some of the club’s long-serving stalwarts being ushered towards the exit doors.

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Over the past few seasons the likes of Lukaku, Smalling and Ashley Young have all relocated to Italian football, while Lingard has sought first-team opportunities in the capital with West Ham on loan.

Explaining his decision to part with that quartet, Solskjaer says he “wanted a different team” that chimed with his playing philosophy.

“Every manager has their own focus and priorities,” he told Sky Sports.

“Those players are top players, top professionals. You can look at them and wish them all the best. But I made a decision, together with the club, that I wanted to have a different team.

“I am not the one to talk about the evolution and compare one team to another. The proof is in the results.

“That is the only way we can convince the fans that we are doing the right thing. But, for me, the team now is looking more like a team that I feel responsible for.”

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Solskjaer on Lukaku: I didn’t want a target man

Discussing his decision to part ways with Lukaku in August 2019, Solskjaer believed the Belgian striker didn’t mesh well with his ‘fast break’ system, labelling Inter’s No. 9  a “target man”.

It will come as no surprise that Man Utd have netted the most fast break goals this season (six) in the Premier League, with Solskjaer deploying the likes Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes to execute quick counters and overwhelm opposition defenders.

Solskjaer’s recent recruitment strategy also resembles a who’s who of track and field athletes, notably with the introduction of pace merchant Daniel James from Swansea City, a player whose style is almost diametrically at odds with Lukaku’s.

Speaking about Lukaku’s exit in 2019, Solskjaer said: “Of course Rom has a good record and stats – he’s one of the top number nines around when you want to play with that kind of striker – he’s a target man.

“[But] for me, I’m very confident that we’ll get goals from [Anthony] Martial, Rashford… Dan James will come in and create, Jesse Lingard will get more. We have a different attacking set-up this season.

“It was time for Rom to go because I think we got a good deal. He’s happy so I think both parties ended that deal as it should be. Rom was injured for a while in pre-season and didn’t participate so I just hope for him he’ll get a good start at Inter.

“I have always had a good relationship with Rom, open and honest. We’ve spoken to each other openly and frankly and I have no issue with him at all. But now, whoever’s in here, we’re very happy with them.”