For a footballer of Romelu Lukaku’s stature, the amount of criticism that he receives once he hits a bit of a dry spell may come as somewhat of a surprise considering what he has already achieved in his relatively young career.
At the age of 25, the Belgian has established himself as one of the world’s most lethal strikers, but his recent goal scoring slump has resulted in tonnes of negativity being thrown his way by not only the fans of Manchester United but football fans in general.
Now, when you look at the numbers in the Premier League, he is on track to equalling his league goal tally from last season as he has 12 goals to his name so far this season with nine games remaining. He scored 16 in the league last season.
Overall though, his output this season has been below par as he has only managed 13 goals in all competitions. Not as impressive as his 27 goals in all competitions last season, which was the best goal scoring season of his career.
The lack of goals is not the only issue though as Lukaku has won the hearts of Manchester United fans over the last 12 months or so with his admirable work rate and the passion that he has shown for the club when he pulled on the shirt. That sort of fire is what has been missing this season and one can only wonder why?
Of course, after scoring 27 goals in your first season for Manchester United, the bar will subsequently be set extremely high and the expectations will be for you to reach or supersede that bar on a consistent basis. But the one thing that all Manchester United fans can appreciate other than goals, is the dedication and commitment that a player shows for the badge on and off the pitch, and Lukaku has been lacking that this season. Hence the increased criticism.
The often criticized first touch and other flaws in Lukaku’s game have become more apparent this season because he has appeared to be lazier and not as committed to putting in a shift when the goals weren’t going in. That’s something that could not have been said about him last season when he went through some adversity. He was constantly coming up with key assists and making big plays on the defensive side of the ball. This season he has four assists, one in the league. Last season he had nine assists, seven in the league. It’s a big difference over the course of the season and proof that the criticism is not just pulled out of thin air. There is substance to it.
However, with all that being said, the season is still relatively young and United still have a lot to play for. And so, there is still time for Lukaku to turn it around.
You don’t just give up on a striker like Lukaku after a few months of subpar performances. It could happen to anyone, but you have to believe that he will come good eventually.
Well, what better opportunity to turn your fortunes around and come through for your team than when the team gets hit with a severe injury crisis while big games are coming thick and fast?
Right now it’s make or break time for Romelu Lukaku. The perfect opportunity to stake a claim for the starting XI with some inspired performances and goals in the absence of the likes of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial and the continuous struggles of Alexis Sanchez.
Flashes of the old “Rom” were visible in the game against Liverpool. He was the one who created the two most dangerous chances of the game, laying the ball on a plate to Lingard and Chris Smalling as they squandered their chances. He then followed it up with solid outings against Crystal Palace and Southampton just when the team needed him to step up the most, with nine first team players out due to injury.
And step up he did. Four big goals in two games, including an 88th minute winner against Southampton in front of the Stretford End, will certainly prove to be a much-needed confidence booster for the man in question. Seeing the ball rattle in the net not once but twice in two consecutive games will do his composure in front of goal the world of good ahead of the upcoming games.
So, is this the moment when Lukaku breaks out of his slump and goes on a goal scoring rampage? It certainly is beginning to look like it.
And if that’s the case, then the timing could not be any more perfect for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United considering the injury plague. Also, it would be ideal for Lukaku as it would allow the big Belgian to include himself in the long-term plans of Manchester United as more than just an impact substitute.