LOS ANGELES, United States, Jul 10 – Romelu Lukaku revealed that his record move to Manchester United was inspired by Paul Pogba’s arrival at Old Trafford as he began training with the Premier League giants in Los Angeles on Monday.
A relaxed-looking Lukaku signed autographs for fans and posed for photos at UCLA’s Drake Stadium, where United are training this week as their five-match pre-season US tour gets under way.
The 24-year-old Lukaku joined up with the United squad just hours after his reported 75 million pound ($97 million, 85.5m euro) transfer from Everton was officially completed. The five-year deal — which will see Lukaku pocket more than 200,000 pounds per week — is a record transfer between two English clubs.
The Belgian international striker quickly got into the groove, taking part in passing drills with French star Pogba and other team-mates in blazing sunshine at the UCLA facility near Beverly Hills.
In his first interview since becoming a United player, Lukaku told the club’s television channel that his decision to seek a move to Old Trafford had come after seeing Pogba join the club last year.
Pogba and Lukaku, who share the same agent, are close friends and were on holiday in Beverly Hills last week together before the deal was completed.
– Pogba plays ‘big role’ –
Lukaku, who could make his debut in Saturday’s tour opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy, told MUTV Pogba had played a “big role” in his transfer.
“He is one of my best friends and he is my neighbour as well,” Lukaku said.
“We are always together on a daily basis so he would explain to me how things were going. Last season when he signed for United, to have witnessed that, it really triggered something in my brain and I knew that if one day I had the chance to sign then I would not say no.
“You just know and realise how big the club is, and the hunger it has to win trophies. I would like to say, at the end of my career, that I played for a team that has always challenged for trophies and this is what the club has always done.
“To be here now is a blessing and I will not take this opportunity for granted.”
Lukaku’s transfer reunites him with Jose Mourinho, who famously sold the striker to Everton in 2014 during his second spell in charge of Chelsea.
The two men engaged in an often spiky war of words following Lukaku’s move to Everton, with Mourinho questioning the striker’s “mentality” and motivation to be successful at Stamford Bridge.
– Dreaming of Mourinho –
However on Monday, as Mourinho declared Lukaku a “natural fit” for United, the striker said he was looking forward to working with the Portuguese manager once more, insisting the two had a solid relationship.
“I am really looking forward to it, that is the most exciting part,” Lukaku said.
“Me and him, we have a really good relationship and I always dreamed to play under him since I was 10. To have the opportunity at 24 to work under him and to be part of his plans for challenges for trophies is exciting.
“I think he is a manager to help us to win trophies and I can’t wait to start working under him again.”
Lukaku, who lives in Manchester, revealed he had harbored a long-time desire to play for United, who won their 42nd major trophy this year with victory in the Europa League final, putting them one clear of bitter rivals Liverpool with 41.
“I live in Manchester so I pass Old Trafford many times when I want to go to the city centre,” Lukaku said. “One night I said to my mum that I would play there one day. I thought so. I had a certain feeling.”
In the short term Lukaku is looking forward to realising his goal of playing in the Champions League next season.
“Finally! Finally! I have been a pro for eight years and I have never had a taste of the Champions League group stages,” Lukaku said. “It is something I have always wanted, that competition has something, I want to see how it is and to have a taste.”