It almost looks like the script was written for the Manchester United handlers to come back and chase them in the Europa League final with Inter Milan.
Both sides have yet to win their respective semifinals – United against Sevilla on Sunday and Inter against Shakhtar Donetsk on Monday – but if this turns out to be the case, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will see players almost unrecognizable on the field, most notably Romelu Lukaku. .
Solskjaer showed no resistance to the sale of Lukaku to Inter last summer for £ 73 million, a club record for the Serie A side.
Romelu Lukaku has revived his career at Inter Milan and now has his eyes on a trophy
With the full support of boss Antonio Conte (right), Lukaku is now back at his best
Before leaving for Milan, Lukaku (second right) was accused of being overweight at United
‘I am confident that we will get goals from (Anthony) Martial and (Marcus) Rashford. Then James will create and Jesse Lingard will get more, ‘Solskjaer said when asked why he had allowed an exit without a direct replacement.
Both Martial – 23 in all competitions – and Rashford – 22 in all competitions – increased their returns after Lukaku’s departure, but neither came close to the Belgian’s running figure of 31 goals for the season.
James has scored just four goals – just one since the turn of the year – while Lingard went from five goals in Lukaku’s last season at Old Trafford to four this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer approved the sale as he preferred a more free-flowing attacking three
But in a 3-5-2 system, Lukaku is thriving, scoring 31 goals for this season
Although he shone in his freshman year with the San Siro, he wasn’t as impressive as Brazilian Ronaldo, who managed to hit 34 in his debut season in 1997-98.
Lukaku, despite all the ridicule and criticism of his weight gain he received in Manchester, was in a league of his own in Serie A.
His strike against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2-1 quarter-final victory to set up a meeting with Shakhtar in Germany made nine consecutive Europa League appearances in which he has scored.
So what changed aside from the obvious?
The main points are as follows: being deployed in a 3-5-2 system that suits him above all else, playing under a manager in Antonio Conte who firmly believes he has the best striker in the world, and Lukaku finally got answers. about his weight gain.
His partnership with Lautaro Martinez (left) was key as he does a lot of work outside of the ball
One of the first things Conte did was for Lukaku to meet with a specialist to understand why he had gained more than 100 kg.
The nutritionist reportedly made such a thorough analysis of the Belgian striker that even the decomposition of his bodily waste was checked, according to ESPN.
While it may seem like maniacal effort, this was the club’s record purchase and if they won titles and dethrone nine consecutive Serie A champions Juventus now, it was nothing.
It turned out that Lukaku had a digestive problem and so a diet change was in order. Fried foods had disappeared, as had potatoes and alcohol – although the latter was a moot point, given that Lukaku is abstention.
By the time the first month was up – and he’d netted his Serie A debut with Inter against Lecce – he’d lost half a brick. More followed. The diet worked, Lukaku looked and felt great. It turned out.
Vegetables, fish, and pasta became Lukaku’s new standard – a perfect blend of protein and carbohydrates to keep fuel from getting lean too.
But Lukaku deserves credit for the work he did long before he arrived to make this move a success. It comes down to more than just a change of ingredients on his plate.
While he was public enemy No. 1 at Old Trafford while working as a lone striker, Lukaku was learning Italian off the field. Languages come naturally to him, as he also speaks French, Spanish, English, Portuguese and some German.
It smoothed his transition on the field, allowing him to express his true feelings – good and bad – during the 90 minutes that counted the most in any given week.
The formation switch was also key. At United he was often the center of a 4-2-3-1, but that was discarded at Inter in favor of Conte’s 3-5-2 preference.
Lukaku saw that working together with the Argentinian star Lautaro Martinez. For the first time consistently in his career, Lukaku shared the box with another Orthodox No. 9, and the rewards were more fruitful than many could have predicted.
There was no bedding in the period, no communication interruptions between the couple. They became so in sync that both Lukaku and Martinez even wore the same outfit once during a match.
With the disruptive Mauro Icardi pushed to Paris Saint-Germain, Conte’s entire system was designed to get the best out of his two frontmen.
Lukaku and Ashley Young (right) are now ready to come back and chase their old side
The Belgian was heavily scrutinized in Manchester and lost the support of United’s fan base
Lukaku’s 31 goals were supplemented with 19 by Martinez. Ending a point on Juventus in Serie A brings blatant disappointment, but a combined 50 goals from this team’s two stars promises a lot of progress.
And while Martinez’s numbers are slightly lower than his forward, the work he does off the ball is just as important as any other factor when talking about Lukaku’s resurgence in Milan.
The Argentinian will do everything he can to run off the ball, Lukaku won’t and the space he opens up – as defenders know he is such a threat himself – has given Lukaku plenty of opportunities to punish.
That selflessness is priceless. At United, there was neither the connection nor the willingness to build everything around Lukaku. In hindsight, things would have gotten worse at Old Trafford if this move had never been realized.
The scrutiny at United is massive, arguably one of the media’s most intense clubs around the world.
Loved by Inter, he thrives under Antonio Conte’s system designed to help him score
In Italy, that pressure ends up with Juventus. It allowed Lukaku to change environments, make a fresh start, and in a system designed to maximize his target return, it was no shock to feel right at home.
Now the challenge is to end it with a trophy.
“It’s up to him and his desire to improve,” Conte told Inter TV after the win over Getafe in the last 16.
“Most importantly, we’re all hungry to raise the bar and keep growing.”
Fellow former United attacker Dimitar Berbatov sent the warning that Lukaku himself did not dare to give.
Conte wants him to stay hungry as he prepares for two final games in the Europa League
“ I always said that I liked him as a player, that if he had any chances he would score goals, ” he said Betfair told. ‘He is very fast and very strong. He is the greatest danger to whoever they are playing against.
Inter also has 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 they were wrong in letting them go. ‘
How sweet would it be for Lukaku to show Solskjaer exactly what he is missing if the pair were to reunite in Friday night’s final.