When Romelu Lukaku was announced as Manchester United’s new striker following his £75 million transfer from Everton the vast majority of Reds were pleased to see such a prolific goalscorer joining the club. For many Reds, the memories of the hat-trick for West Bromwich Albion in Sir Alex’s final game, the record of practically a goal every other game for a Toffees side that had often been mid-table and the fact physically Lukaku was similar to Zlatan Ibrahimovic made it a deal worth making. Not everyone was enamoured though, there were questions about the Belgian’s touch and the fact some of his performances against the Reds – in particular his last one at Old Trafford -were anonymous at best.
It’s hard not to be excited when your club signs a £75 million striker who’s scored a goal every other game and is still some years off his peak, even when you have your doubts. At first it seemed that any question marks over whether Lukaku could make the step up to a team with title aspirations were unfounded as the striker managed ten goals in his first nine appearances. That early season form soon eroded and while a return of 27 goals in all competitions, including 16 in the league was hardly poor, it wasn’t as emphatic as many had hoped, particularly when you consider how dominant he’d been earlier in the campaign. One area the striker had improved on during the course of his time at United was his all round play which saw him linking up with his team mates well, although there were still some lingering doubts surrounding his touch.
Lukaku’s season ended on a sour note as he picked up an injury ahead of the FA Cup final forcing him to tell the manager he didn’t feel fit enough to start the game, an admission that went down about as well as a Paul Pogba interview.
As per usual Jose Mourinho wasn’t shy in noting his displeasure:
“When a player tells you he’s not ready to play, when a player tells you that he is not ready to start, then the question is how many minutes do you think you can play.”
“But how can I convince a player that tells that he is not ready to play? It’s not a difficult decision. It was an easy decision.
“I knew the opponent I was going to play against. I knew they have a compact low block with lots of physicality where they try to close everything.
“I knew without a target man it would be difficult for us, or Marouane Fellaini coming from the second line, attacking their second line with his physicality it would be difficult.”
Lukaku has claimed this isn’t the case, causing suggestions of a rift between the manager and his star striker.
The summer offered Lukaku the chance to put the disappointment of missing out on any silverware in his first season at United, behind him.
Many commentators, fans and journalists were quick to point out that Lukaku had a ‘great’ World Cup bagging four goals as Belgium finished in third place.
No one can argue that his national side don’t deserve credit for their endeavours but was a brace against Panama and another one against Tunisia really the mark of greatness?
Lukaku was found wanting in many of the tougher games including the semi-final against France where he missed an easy header from eight yards out that could have put his side on the verge of football’s ultimate prize.
This season Lukaku hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts and while four league goals in seven games seems to tell a different story, anyone who’s watched him of late can’t deny the Belgian doesn’t seem the same player he was this time last season, he seems much worse.
Against Derby County, West Ham and Valencia, Lukaku failed to take what few chances came his way, to the point where many fans now believe the time has come to drop him from the starting eleven.
A recent RedArmyBet poll noted:
Lukaku cut a forlorn figure against Valencia, arguing with his team mates, failing to make the runs that you’d expect and unable to impose himself on the game. It’s been the story of United’s season and no player seems to embody the issues the side face, better than Lukaku, who despite showing signs of his talent, isn’t able to find the consistency needed for the Reds to get their season back on track.
A rest may do Lukaku the world of good, whether Jose Mourinho can afford to take that chance against Newcastle where a win could prove vital to keeping his job, remains to be seen.