Managing the expectation of a big money move to Manchester United, carrying the baton passed on by the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic and improving his all round game week in week out were three standout features of Romelu Lukaku’s debut season at Manchester United.
In a side plagued with creative inhibitions and mediocre service, the Belgian still managed to plunder 27 goals and became United’s undisputed main man. Mourinho’s signing since taking over at United have enjoyed mixed levels of success, but Lukaku has been a big hit and few United fans would argue they got a raw deal when all the talk was about Alvaro Morata last summer.
All that has not been sufficient to satisfy one particular journalist, former West Ham stopper Shaka Hislop. In one of the strangest bits of criticism you’re ever likely to see, Hislop claimed that Lukaku ‘is not a clean finisher and fails against the big teams’.
‘I’m not sure Lukaku is the man you put your mortgage on to convert that half chance’, Hislop added.
Hislop’s betting and property histories clearly leave a lot to be desired, Lukaku has already become a Premier League centurion and is now consistently surpassing that 20 goal mark which rubberstamps a consistent goal return and a good season.
That finishing is sure to improve under the guidance of one of the game’s deadliest and coolest finishers in Thierry Henry, who is Roberto Martinez’s assistant for the other Red Devils. Lukaku’s path to greatness is only going to aided by being in the presence of it in the flesh.
You do not happen to score 27 goals by fluke or accident either, particularly when he is not blessed by high-quality service. He is a scorer of all types of goals, left, right, head, he has the lot.
Much was made of his patchy record in the crunch games, with the dreaded tag ‘flat track bully’ often flung in his direction. Lukaku exorcised those demons with his best performance in a red shirt against his old employers Chelsea at Old Trafford. He was a bully, a menace, hungry and powerful. His well-taken equaliser swung the momentum to United and he then provided an inviting cross for Jesse Lingard to head what turned out to be the winner.
His link play was often deemed to be an Achilles heel, but it has now turned into a major strength in his game. Playing as the focal point in this team, the ball simply has to stick and he has to bring runners from deep into the equation, something we have seen more and more as last season progressed. It has not interfered with his goal output and there was always going to be scope for Lukaku to take his game to the next level whilst at United.
He can create a legacy for himself at the club and is surely only going to get better at the tender age of 25. The challenge for him now is to eclipse the 30 goal mark and beyond. United’s title-winning sides of yesteryear had that in their armory — Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin Van Persie immediately spring to mind in that respect.
If Lukaku can add that to his impressive locker, United have a fighting chance of getting closer to that bit of silverware they used to make their own.
As for the here and now, I’m sure big Rom is losing a lot of sleep over Hislop’s comments.