Is Lukaku the missing piece for Man United?

Written by:
Payton
Published on:
Jul/16/2017

The parallels that can be drawn between Jose Mourinho's first season in charge of Manchester United, and his first in his second spell at Chelsea are hard to ignore: There was a significant improvement in terms of creativity and build-up play, but wasteful finishing against the lesser sides cost them dear.

Due to far too many unnecessary home draws, The Red Devils dropped 21 points against teams outside the top seven last season. In 13/14, that number for Chelsea was 25. The following summer, the club went all out to sign a natural goalscorer in Diego Costa, who had been outstanding for Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Costa scored 20 league goals in 14/15, 16 of which coming in clashes with bottom-13 opposition, against whom Chelsea dropped just 14 points. Mourinho will hope that Romelu Lukaku, who has signed from Everton for £70 million plus add-ons this week, can make a similar impact.

There are stylistic differences between the two. If they were to have a race, Costa would be more likely to win a marathon whereas Lukaku would perhaps triumph in the sprint. The Belgian has raw pace and runs directly at centre-backs, something that Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not offer last season.

His critics though suggest his first touch and hold-up play can improve. In order to become a better rounded team player, Lukaku could perhaps use his athleticism to greater effect when his side do not have the ball, something Costa is more accustomed to doing. Though not the quickest, Costa will harry centre-backs all game in hope of stopping the opposing team playing out from the back and helping his side get a stronger grip on the midfield.

It remains to be seen whether Lukaku can be that man for Manchester United, especially in big games, when selflessness and tactical diligence is required. In fact, Mourinho may look to utilize the tireless Marcus Rashford against top seven opposition, which proved so effective in the home win over Chelsea last season and in the Europa League.

While Rashford should be proud of the first 18 months of his professional career, it would be far too much of a risk for an elite manager to make him a first choice striker every week. With Ibrahimovic gone, Wayne Rooney returning to Everton and Mourinho unwilling to try Anthony Martial down the middle, another proven striker was needed. At 24, Lukaku has played five full seasons in England, scoring at least 16 goals in all forms in each of them and 51 over his last two campaigns with Everton.

The Premier League's second top scorer - and 9/2 odds with betting site Bet Way as of 13th July to take the golden boot this term - the 24-year-old scored 21 goals last year purely against bottom 13 opposition. He is seen to be a striker that is best used on the counter-attack, his speed and power allowing him to run in behind. While this is true, intelligence is an aspect of Lukaku's goalscoring that he is not given enough credit for.

When opposing defences and midfields are on the defensive and drop inside their own box, the ex-Anderlecht striker knows how to respond. He will briefly curtail his run so that when momentum takes his opponents closer to their own goal, a gap appears for a wide man to square it for Lukaku, who then brings his power into the game and rams the ball in. Sometimes it looks like his goalscoring is all about raw athleticism, when actually he shows more cleverness than is ostensibly visible.

If Lukaku can add team-centred qualities to his undoubted pace, power and goalscoring instinct, he could be the perfect solution to Manchester United's finishing difficulties.

 

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