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Let Lukaku leave! Why Man Utd & Woodward can't stall Inter Milan deal

COMMENT: For Romelu Lukaku, it was a decent Saturday night. He didn't get a game. But he did walk away with an Inter Milan shirt. A pat on the back from Antonio Conte. And a 'see you later' from his potential new teammates at the Singapore National Stadium.

They've made sure, have Inter. They've made it clear to Lukaku he's a wanted man. Before and after defeat to Manchester United, Conte declared his admiration for the Belgian - and his wish to work with him in Italy.

"I like him," declared Conte post-match, "because I consider him a player who could improve our team, but on the one side there is my hope, my will, on the other side then we'll see what we find with the club."

Let's not mess about. This has been a love-in. Whether you're a fan, coach or teammate, no matter how you're connected to United, you now know Lukaku's heart just isn't in it. His commitment now lies with Inter. The Belgian actually requesting a Nerazzurri shirt from club staff after his impromptu - but very public - exchange with Conte before kick off.

And along with the actual game, also sandwiched between those words from their coach was a new offer from United's opponents on the night. After some tentative suggestions about player swaps, Inter made a formal bid of €60m cash plus bonuses. An offer made not with an expectation of something being settled. But one to get United to the negotiating table. Talk of Ed Woodward demanding near €100m to sell is wide of the mark. United's vice-chairman exec, unlike with Paul Pogba, is seeking to do business and has no plans to price Lukaku out of a move away.

Yet for the moment, United's €80m valuation is still deemed too steep by Inter chiefs. A clear €20m more than what was tabled on Saturday morning, Inter GM Beppe Marotta is hoping for a compromise from Woodward that he can sell to the club's Chinese owners. Marotta will be part of a delegation to meet Suning management in China on Monday.

And Woodward would do well to heed the warning of his intermediaries. Marotta would prefer to do something regarding Lukaku. But not at any cost. Unlike United's pseudo technical director, Marotta always has a plan. And while Lukaku is the first choice of Conte, the old Juventus partnership have also agreed on Edin Dzeko as a readymade alternative. Both Roma and the Bosnian are waiting anxiously, near hoping, that Woodward cocks this one up.

And that must be the concern for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. While the United manager is prepared to see Lukaku sold, his preference would be to keep the Belgian around in the striker rotation. A message that has been relayed to both Lukaku and his Italian agent, Federico Pastorello. However, at 26. And knowing he can produce when given the right support - as he's proved with Belgium and Roberto Martinez over the past 12 months. Lukaku feels Solskjaer is selling him short. Marotta being made aware of the player's feelings by Pastorello prior to Saturday's offer. Those words of Conte were no coincidence...

The short end of it is that Woodward needs to sell. And quickly. United don't have the luxury of Inter of working the summer market to the end of next month. The geniuses of the Premier League made sure of that. United are now stuck with less than three weeks to sell their centre-forward. Identify a replacement. And convince him to actually join them.

Allowing the Premier League deadline to fall with Lukaku still a United player would be a mess. Just as it will if Woodward continues to stall negotiations with Real Madrid over the sale of Paul Pogba. No-one in football, not even Mino Raiola, rates Pogba as an €180m player. No-one, that is, apart from Woodward. A judgement made solely on merchandise sales rather than anything to do with the pitch.

An approach which runs entirely counter to what we've seen and heard from the football people at United this summer. Solskjaer and his staff have talked about a three-year plan. About "rebuilding a winning team". And the signings of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka reflect that approach. As does Marcus Rashford's new deal and the confirmation this preseason of Axel Tuanzebe.

There's a plan in place. One the United supporter can understand and embrace. One also the players can buy into - and significantly - to a man.

This new approach won't work if going into the new season there's certain personalities with their minds elsewhere. It'll chip away at the morale inside the dressing room and the support from the stands.

This new era needs everyone at United rowing in the same direction. Lukaku has his shirt. And his pat on the back. Woodward needs to let the striker leave for Inter Milan.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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