The 4-0 win over Leeds in Australia on Wednesday underlined that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has plenty of striking options even if Lukaku signs for Inter
A 4-0 win over Leeds United in a pre-season friendly would not normally spell the end of a soccer professional’s spell at Manchester United but, for Romelu Lukaku, the inevitability of his pending move to Inter was only increased as Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood inspired the Red Devils to victory.
Coming 24 hours after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pointedly remarked that he wouldn’t be needing a big target man in Lukaku’s mould this season, United turned in a wonderful attacking display to see off their bitter rivals from the Championship while the injured Belgian looked on.
“The way we hope we are going to play, it doesn’t have to be a six-foot four-inch striker,” Solskjaer told British reporters on Tuesday, and, against Leeds, his players showed exactly what he wants from them in the Premier League this term.
They attacked with pace and incisiveness, and at the head of their forward unit, they had an always-menacing Rashford and a lively Greenwood.
The former hit the post in the first couple of minutes before the 17-year-old opened the scoring with his first senior goal after great work by the impressive Paul Pogba and new signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Rashford would then score himself, collecting Scott McTominay’s pass on the run before sending his defender the wrong way and netting coolly past Leeds keeper Kiko Casilla.
United’s first-half dominance may have been further reflected on the scoreboard but for a save by Casilla from Rashford and then the post keeping out Dan James’ effort from a Rashford pass.
While Leeds had chances themselves, United’s forward play was something to behold.
The interplay and energy on display was a reminder of Solskjaer’s first game in charge of United, away to Cardiff back in December 2018, and the similarity of the eventual scoreline to that 5-1 win in south Wales was no coincidence.
Phil Jones netted the third with a near-post header from Andreas Pereira’s corner, suggesting United might be more dangerous from set-pieces than they have looked in recent years, and Anthony Martial would round out the scoring from the penalty spot, after scintillating interplay between Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong had led to the latter being felled by Liam Cooper.
United will obviously come up against far more difficult opposition this season than a threadbare Leeds squad, but in terms of showing their intention to be a far more attractive, expressive outfit, this was an excellent showcase of what may be to come for fans of United.
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With Rashford, Greenwood and Martial all showing their ability around the final third and with James and the late-returning Alexis Sanchez also options in the No.9 position, it has been arguable that not only do United not need the departing Lukaku, they would also have no real need to replace the former Everton man should his proposed switch to San Siro go through in the coming weeks.
Because this has been the kind of United that has been missing in recent times: a United which moves the round ball; which runs at opponents; which threatens from all angles.
Solskjaer was bang on about not needing a six-four four-inch striker, and Wednesday’s performance in Perth was all the evidence the Norwegian needs that his United vision has been slowly but surely beginning to make a real difference.