Manchester United’s struggles this season have been extensively documented, and what was expected to be an improvement upon Erik ten Hag’s promising debut campaign has turned into a nightmare.
The Red Devils have encountered disappointment in their first two Champions League matches, succumbing to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray. In the Premier League, they have managed to secure just four wins in their initial eight matches, raising doubts about their ability to mount a title challenge.
Their defensive vulnerabilities have been ruthlessly exposed, with a total of 19 goals conceded in their 11 games thus far. In six of those encounters, they let in two or more goals, underscoring the urgency of addressing this issue.
However, their struggles are not confined to the defensive end. Astonishingly, their top scorer this season is Casemiro, a central midfielder, with four goals, while Marcus Rashford has found the net only once. Even new signing Rasmus Hojlund, who has been impressive in the Champions League with three goals, has failed to score in the Premier League.
It’s evident that Ten Hag’s side requires more firepower in the final third, especially if they aspire to compete for league titles and European success. The January transfer window may offer the opportunity to strengthen the squad.
Interestingly, Manchester United may find themselves regretting the departure of one of their former strikers, Romelu Lukaku, who has outscored every single current United player since his exit in 2019.
Romelu Lukaku was acquired by Manchester United during Jose Mourinho’s tenure in 2017 for approximately £75 million. The Belgian sensation had previously impressed at Everton, scoring 87 goals in just four seasons, including 25 league goals during his final season.
Mourinho expressed his admiration for Lukaku, describing him as a “natural fit” for Manchester United. He had high hopes for the forward and looked forward to working with him.
However, Lukaku’s two-year stint at Manchester United failed to meet the lofty expectations. Although he performed admirably during his first season, with 27 goals, his second season saw a dip in his goal-scoring form, with just 15 goals in all competitions. He faced criticism for his finishing during this period.
Following Mourinho’s departure and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment, it became clear that Lukaku would not be a key figure in the team’s future plans. Inter Milan subsequently secured his services for £73 million, marking his exit from the Premier League.
Since leaving Manchester United, Lukaku has thrived in Italian football, impressing during his time at Inter Milan, where he scored 34 goals in the 2019/20 season. He played a crucial role in Inter’s Serie A title triumph during his second season.
Subsequently, Lukaku played for Chelsea, Inter, and AS Roma, contributing another 36 goals since departing Inter Milan. In total, he has scored 100 club goals in just over four years.
In comparison, the current Manchester United players have been unable to match Lukaku’s goal-scoring output during the same period. Rashford has scored 79 goals, while Bruno Fernandes has netted 66 since his arrival in January 2020. Anthony Martial, another United forward, has managed only 41 goals since the summer of 2019.
These statistics underscore the persistent attacking issues that have plagued Manchester United for several years. This season, Lukaku has continued to shine at AS Roma, scoring seven goals in just eight matches since joining the club in the summer.
While Lukaku may not have been the panacea for all of Ten Hag’s problems in this challenging second season, his knack for finding the back of the net could have prevented some of Manchester United’s recent losses.
At the time of his sale for £73 million, it might have seemed like a sensible move, particularly considering his second season’s performance. However, in hindsight, it’s clear that Manchester United made a significant error.