Monday 19 August 2019

Running joke quickly lands Lukaku in trouble

Romelu Lukaku. Photo: PA
Romelu Lukaku. Photo: PA

James Ducker

Romelu Lukaku was instructed to delete a controversial social-media post revealing confidential details of Manchester United's training statistics as the striker's strained relations with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took another turn for the worse.

Lukaku took to Twitter on Friday to issue a firm riposte to those who claim he lacks pace by revealing the results of a running test during the Perth leg of United's pre-season tour last month.

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It showed Lukaku was second only to Diogo Dalot (36.43km per hour) with a maximum speed of 36.25km per hour. It also charted the speeds of 22 other United team-mates. The tweet was accompanied with the words "lack of pace" next to laughing and runner emojis.

But Lukaku's decision to divulge such information publicly was dimly received by Solskjaer, and the Belgium striker was ordered to remove the post immediately.

It comes as Lukaku pins his hopes on a move to Juventus or Inter Milan this summer. United are in talks with Juventus about a potential swap deal involving Paulo Dybala, although the Argentina striker is reluctant to leave the Italian club against his will and has reservations about a move to Old Trafford.

Antonio Conte, the Inter coach, is eager to sign Lukaku but the Milan club - who had a £54m bid rejected last month - need to offload Mauro Icardi to be able to fund a deal.

Harry Maguire was undergoing a medical at United's Carrington training ground yesterday as the England centre-half's £85m move from Leicester nears completion, and Solskjaer remains hopeful of bringing in another player or two before the close of the Premier League transfer window on Thursday.

Lukaku has played no part in any of United's pre-season games this summer and was not in the squad that drew 2-2 with AC Milan in Cardiff yesterday. Marcus Rashford put United ahead in their final warm-up match. They then fell behind before Jesse Lingard equalised with Solskjaer's side winning the penalty shoot-out 5-4.

Lukaku's tweet also went down badly with some of his United team-mates. It had the unintended consequence of embarrassing Luke Shaw, who finished last behind Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic - neither of whom are known for their pace - with a speed of 31.03km per hour.

Mata saw the funny side and replied to Lukaku by tweeting: "Thanks for finally showing the world that I'm quicker than @LukeShaw23 bro."

Shaw - usually considered one of the fastest players in United's squad - was not thought to be running flat-out as part of the test. The left-back did little to hide his frustration with his reply, writing: "They only wanted me to go 70% don't let me start speaking on you boy."

Uncertainty also continues to surround the future of Paul Pogba, who admitted publicly in June that he wanted to seek a new challenge at another club amid strong speculation that Real Madrid is his preferred port of call.

The France midfielder did not travel with the rest of United's squad to Cardiff and there have been conflicting stories over the reasons behind his omission.

Reports overnight claimed Pogba failed to show for United's flight to Cardiff on Friday afternoon as he made a last-ditch attempt to force through a move to Real.

United put Pogba's absence down to the recurrence of a back spasm that had also forced him to miss a training session before United's game against Kristiansund in Norway, and there have been suggestions that an administrative error led to him being wrongly named in the squad for the Milan game in Cardiff.

Pogba has feared for much of the summer that he might be priced out of a move, with both Real Madrid and Juventus balking at United's £160m valuation of the Frenchman.

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