VIDEO: You won’t believe Lukaku’s reply to Man Utd legend’s comment about him
Former Manchester United striker, Romelu Lukaku has hit back at the Red Devil’s legend Gary Neville for challenging his professionalism, indicating the praise of the former coaches he worked under as a proof of his commitment to the game. The Belgian striker completed a move to Serie A giants Inter Milan in a deal worth £74 million ($90m) this summer, bringing to a close a two-year spell at Old Trafford that was filled with ups and downs.
Lukaku was subject to criticism on the way out of the club, United legend Neville tweeting Lukaku, having agreed to being overweight “will score goals and do well at Inter Milan but unprofessionalism is contagious!”
The former Everton striker opened his Serie A account in his debut with the Nerazzuris last week, and he took exception to the tweet, saying one only has to look to the long list of managers who have praised his work ethic to see how wrong Neville is.
“Don’t question my professionalism,” Lukaku told BBC Sport.
“I live for this game. I am at home all the time. I try to do everything to improve. He (Neville) can talk about my fitness but he should never say anything about my professionalism, that I don’t work hard enough. That is something he cannot say. All the coaches I have had say the same thing about me. What did Ole Gunnar Solskjaer say when I was on the training ground? What did he say? That I always work hard and always do my best to try and improve myself. Same with Jose Mourinho and Roberto Martinez. Now Antonio Conte will say it.
“Last year was just a bad year. It happens in football. You just have to move on. I am not going to sit here and react in a negative way. We are grown men. He is a pundit. He gets paid to say this kind of stuff. I am paid to play football. I just want to do my best for Inter Milan. That is it.”
Lukaku also moved to deny any fitness issues during this past pre-season with United – which had been used as justification as to why he did not see the field. The striker started for Inter in their 4-0 win over Lecce in the Serie A opener, going 90 minutes, and discussed the high levels of fitness required to play in head coach Antonio Conte’s system.
“I was training by myself for the last couple of weeks in Manchester with one of the physical coaches. From Singapore until I moved here, I was basically only doing running and not training on the pitch. When I got here they asked me what I had been doing,” Lukaku added.
“I had not done any group training, only running, so we kept the running part going. They introduced me to the group exercises and then they organised some friendlies and that was it. When I arrived, the first four days were about building up the physical aspect, getting as fit as possible for the first game – do a lot of physical work and adapt tactically to what he (Conte) wants on the pitch. How we play involves a lot of pressing, being in the right positions. You have to be alert and sharp in training.”
Lukaku was put on the spot by BBC Sport correspondent as he was asked if he knew why United thought he had a fitness issue, he replied: “No.”
Lukaku was allowed to leave Manchester United this summer for Inter, but entertains no ill will toward his former club, glorifying his chance to play for one of the biggest teams in the world.
“I don’t know. I don’t try to look back at it. The way I look at it is that I beat all the odds,” Lukaku told BBC Sport when asked where his United tenure went wrong.
“Coming from where I came from, growing up the way that I did, I think I beat the odds. No-one thought I would do the steps I have in my life as a professional footballer, only me and my family. For me, the Manchester United experience is one I am grateful for – not a good one because we didn’t win and I wanted to win with the club – but they gave me a chance.
“I got to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world, so I will always be respectful to them. In the end, I thought it was better for me to move on and try different things. I wish them well for the future. Now I am on my own path and I am very happy in Serie A.”