Romelu Lukaku believes he has finally emerged from his post-World Cup slump, with the Manchester United striker revealing he had to shed muscle to adapt to the demands of the Premier League.
After a promising first season at Old Trafford, the 25-year-old has struggled to make an impact in front of goal amid what has been a largely frustrating second campaign under Jose Mourinho.
But Lukaku is belatedly showing positive signs again, having ended his 12-match goalless streak for United at Southampton last weekend and netted at Old Trafford for the first time since March in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Fulham.
The Belgium striker said he did not allow the external scrutiny to get him down.
“I think I just need to keep working hard,” he said. “Me and the manager had good conversations in the last couple of days, where really he told me what he wanted from me.
“And I know from my side I have to do better and I just keep looking forward and improving, trying to add into my game and help the team to win.”
Lukaku said he had not been playing with enough intensity and aggression and had also cut down on his gym work after bulking up during the summer.
“(I added) a little bit of muscle, yeah,” he said. “It was at the World Cup. I just felt great and I think I played great over there, and then when I came back it is a different type of style.
“When you are in the Premier League, I cannot play with the same amount of muscle as international football here in the Prem. That was something that when I came back I knew straightaway ‘nah, nah, I cannot play in this style like this’.
“I had to lose muscle basically, yeah. So you just stay out of the gym, drink a lot of water, and a lot of veg and fish and it helps.”
Lukaku also said he felt tired after the World Cup, where Belgium finished third.
“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,” he said.
“So, now I think I am in a decent level again and ready to go again. Me and the medical staff, we did a lot of tests to see what was the problem. Also I had a hamstring injury, which is something that never happens to me.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Michael Corry)