BigMatch

No Lukaku, no problem

Marcus Rashford (front) was part of United's squad in Singapore for last month's ICC match against Inter Milan. He scored 10 league goals last term and will be his team's main striker for the upcoming campaign. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Marcus Rashford (front) was part of United's squad in Singapore for last month's ICC match against Inter Milan. He scored 10 league goals last term and will be his team's main striker for the upcoming campaign. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Belgian scored 42 goals in two seasons but Solskjaer says Rashford, Martial can step up

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted yesterday Manchester United can cope without Romelu Lukaku following the Belgium striker's £74 million (S$124 million) transfer to Inter Milan, saying it was time for the player to move on despite the lack of a replacement.

Lukaku joined the Italian Serie A club on Thursday, the Premier League's transfer deadline day, but there was no new arrival to take his place before the window shut.

However, Solskjaer felt United had "got a good deal" and they were not planning to line up with a traditional targetman this season.

Th United manager said yesterday: "He is happy so I think both parties ended that deal as it should be.

"Romelu was injured for a while this pre-season and he did not participate, so I just hope for him he will get a good start at Inter Milan."

The former Everton player fell out of favour under Solskjaer last season and he was training with the youth team at Anderlecht earlier this week as he tried to force his way out of Old Trafford.

Lukaku's behaviour has since been criticised in some quarters, with former United captain Gary Neville particularly scathing, tweeting that he was "overweight" and "unprofessional" during his two-year stay in Manchester.

But Solskjaer insisted there had been no falling out, claiming he "always had a good relationship with Rom, open and honest".

The Norwegian added: "We have always spoken to each other frankly. I have no issue between me and Rom, but we are now obviously very happy with who is here."

While he suggested Lukaku's departure was inevitable, his goals will still be missed as no one in the current squad comes close to matching his 42 goals in 96 appearances over the past two campaigns.

A SECOND CHANCE

We think there is a striker there who is going to be able to get us some goals.

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER , Manchester United manager believes much-maligned striker Alexis Sanchez can turn his career at Old Trafford around this season.

Links with Juventus pair Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic came to nothing, so Solskjaer has to go with what is already at his disposal.

Marcus Rashford is expected to lead the attack in their home opener against Chelsea tomorrow but there could be a place for Mason Greenwood, 17, on the bench.

The England Under-18 forward has impressed in pre-season, scoring the winner against Inter Milan at last month's International Champions Cup game in Singapore, and Solskjaer has plans to fast-track him into the first team.

"Of course, Rom has a good record. The stats say he is one of the top No. 9s around when you want to play with that kind of targetman striker," he said. "But I am very confident that we'll get goals from Anthony Martial and Rashford.

"(New signing) Daniel James will create and Jesse Lingard will get more goals too. Mason Greenwood's pathway would have been a lot more different if we had another forward there.

"I believe Mason is going to be playing and involved a lot and when he is, he's going to score goals."

With Lukaku leaving, the door is now open again for Alexis Sanchez to prove his worth after a miserable 18-month spell during which he has been pilloried for only scoring five goals in 45 appearances.

The chances of Chile forward departing before Sept 2, when the last of the European transfer windows closes, are slim. Although he is not yet ready for first-team action following his Copa America exertions, Solskjaer believes Sanchez can still turn his United career around.

"He will see this as an opportunity to make his mark. I do expect him to stay," he said. "We think there is a striker there who is going to be able to get us some goals."

Defenders Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are unavailable due to injuries but Paul Pogba and new signing Harry Maguire are fit to start.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2019, with the headline 'No Lukaku, no problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe