The £75m questions that Lukaku needs to answer at Man Utd

ShareClose Comments
The Belgian's qualities have been questioned by some, meaning his early United performances will be put under the spotlight


COMMENT

Such are the weird and wonderful machinations of the transfer market these days, few would have guessed a week ago that Romelu Lukaku would be preparing to don the training gear of Manchester United for the first time in Los Angeles in the coming days.

Monday’s confirmation of his £75 million switch from Everton completed quite the volte-face for United, with the chase for Alvaro Morata having been curtailed after Real Madrid showed signs of wanting to take them for a ride once more. They immediately moved for Lukaku and they have now got themselves one of the most fearsome attacking presences in the English game.

Man Utd sign £75m Lukaku

But that doesn’t mean the 24-year-old is a finished product. He might have the size, the strength and the pace to trouble most Premier League defenders, as proven by his 85 goals in five full seasons in the division, yet there are still some observers wanting to reserve judgement on a player whose hold-up play has regularly been called into question.

The truth is, though, that few players complete any transfer without some sort of question mark attached. Can he do it in the Premier League? Has he got the goals in him? Is he fast enough? Is he strong enough? Is he clever enough? Is he too indisicplined? There will be one or more imponderable debates about every signing that ever happens.

And Lukaku would appear as capable as anyone of standing up to the interrogation. It is true that he is occasionally clumsy in his build-up play and that he can look cumbersome with the ball at his feet, but he often has the requisite pace and power to get him out of difficult situations.

Romelu Lukaku Jose Mourinho Chelsea

He also has the kind of No.9 instinct that even Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t present during his 28-goal Old Trafford spell. Sure, he will work the channels regularly, but when United need an out-ball he will always be there. Zlatan offered a lot of weapons, yet his unorthodox style of attacking play would often leave United short of a man in the box when they needed one.

Balls flashing through an abandoned penalty area were not an uncommon sight in M16 during 2016-17, but in Lukaku now have a player who makes it his business to get into a position inside the 18-yard area from which he can be effective.

It is clear that he will have to work hard to improve his control with his back to goal so that he doesn’t need that extra touch he has previously craved. Space is tighter and harder to come by when you are a Manchester United player, with defences significantly reinforced in anticipation of the kind of barrage nobody expects of the Evertons of this world.

Romelu Lukaku Everton 16 17

Romelu Lukaku Everton 16 17

Utd right to ditch Morata for Lukaku

But to doubt his ability to come to terms with the new demands is to underestimate the guile he used to deal with difficult defences and close-marking tactics when banging in goals regularly for Everton. Throw in the fact that United have numerous attacking threats for opponents to deal with in a way the Toffees simply didn’t, and Lukaku’s threat becomes harder to handle.

For every question that is currently being asked of him there is also an attribute which speaks of Lukaku's compatibility with the big-game surroundings United will offer in abundance.

“He is a great goalscorer but a poor footballer,” the late, great Johan Cruyff once said of former United front man Ruud van Nistelrooy, and while Lukaku’s game is distinctly different to the Dutch striker’s there is an undertone of the same message in some reviews of the Belgian’s signing.

If he comes anywhere close to Van Nistelrooy’s 150 United goals in 219 appearances, the Stretford End won’t care one bit what anyone makes of Lukaku’s touch with back to goal.

Next article:
Conte addresses Chelsea exit talk
Next article:
Harambee Stars goalkeeper reveals secret behind his heroics
Next article:
Liverpool are no Man City, but the exploits of Coutinho, Salah & Co. should still be enjoyed
Next article:
President Kenyatta congratulate Harambee Stars for lifting Cecafa
Next article:
Former Chelsea star Mikel rules out Premier League return as Everton rumours surface
Close