Romelu Lukaku has “resurrected” his Manchester United career, says Paul Ince, with a striker seemingly heading for the exits having played his way back into form and favour.
Those inside Old Trafford had offered no indication that a Belgium international was on borrowed time.
He had, however, slipped to the bench under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Marcus Rashford filling and then nailing down a central striking berth.
Lukaku has found a role for himself over recent weeks, though, with United’s interim boss prepared to tweak his plans in order to find room for the burly 25-year-old.
That show of faith has been rewarded with six goals across his last three outings, with braces recorded against Crystal Palace and Southampton before helping to dump Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League in spectacular fashion.
His showing against the French giants caught the eye of many, with former United star Ince considering an inspirational performance to have earned a proven frontman a stay of execution.
He told Paddy Power: “A player who deserves enormous credit is Romelu Lukaku.
“He was on his toes and ready for his goals. Yes, they were mistakes, but you’ve still got to finish them. A lot of players stand and wait, and see what happens – but not Lukaku.
“He was outstanding – his best game in a United shirt. It’s the Lukaku we need to see week-in, week-out, the Lukaku that they paid the transfer fee for. It wasn’t just about his goals, it was about his work-rate, his retention of the ball, his strength.
“He was a complete handful and displayed everything that you want in a striker.
“He’s really turned it around because when Ole joined, people were convinced he’d choose to go with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
“People were sure it was the end of his United career, but he’s resurrected it.
“He knew he was fighting for his place, and he’s seen an opportunity to get back into the team. The Belgian has taken it and he deserves massive credit for that.
“It’s easy for players just to sulk when they’re not in the side or blame other people, it’s tougher to dig your heels in and make it impossible for the manager not to pick you.
“Now, the challenge for him is that we see that every week.”
Lukaku has taken his goal tally for the season to 15 across all competitions.
He has broken into double figures in the Premier League for a seventh successive season and forced his way into the top 20 of all-time leading marksmen in the division.
United will be hoping that there is more to come, starting in a crunch clash with fellow top-four hopefuls Arsenal on Sunday.