Romelu Lukaku admitted that he entered the 2018/19 campaign with Manchester United fatigued from his endeavours at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Belgian has only managed two goals since September, and took until the club’s 16th league game before he registered a goal at Old Trafford – a tap in during the 4-1 success over Fulham.
He was a fundamental figure for Belgium in the summer, scoring four times in the group stage and starting six games in total as Roberto Martinez’s side went to the semi-finals.
Speaking in an interview with the Guardian, Lukaku admitted that he was not at his sharpest to start with this season.
Lukaku: “After the World Cup, I think I really was a bit tired. But, you know, I had the same thing in 2014 after the World Cup when I came back to Everton, I was really in a slump after the World Cup. So now I think I am in a decent level again and ready to go.” #mufc [Guardian]
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) December 9, 2018
The World Cup has a gruelling physical impact on a footballer, especially when they go the full distance, and in Lukaku’s case he felt it hard. It is worth noting that, ahead of the finals, it was decided that the striker would bulk up even further. The consequence now is a less mobile striker with less energy in his legs.
But perhaps more taxing is the emotional effect World Cups can have. Lukaku did not win the tournament, of course, but playing in a semi-final – beating favourites Brazil on the way – will always lead to a comedown of sorts when one comes out the other side. Finding your groove back at club level is extremely difficult.
Supporters can only hope that his goal and overall performance against Fulham marks a turned corner for the 25-year-old.