Can Romelu Lukaku regain his spot in Man United’s first team?
Dave Burin | 23 January 2019
Red Rom finding game-time hard to come by
It’s played seven, won seven for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revitalised Manchester United.
The smiles have returned to the Stretford End and to much of the Red Devils’ squad. But the situation isn’t looking so bright for one man at Old Trafford – Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian has started none of United’s six league wins under Solskjaer, with his longest outing a half-hour in the 2-0 win at Newcastle United.
So, can Man United’s £75m man work his way back into the team? Or will he be frozen out in M16?
The case for: Good finishing and a physical Plan B
There’s no doubting Lukaku has missed one or two sitters this term – the most infamous seeing him fire wide of an open goal in the 3-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur.
But one or two dismal attempts shouldn’t overshadow some pretty impressive striking stats this term.
Lukaku’s 32 Premier League attempts this term have seen 19 (or 59%) have hit the target. That’s an impressive ratios, by anyone’s standard. And he’s also shown a versatility in front of goal which few predicted.
Of the Belgian’s eight league goals so far in 2018-19, three came from his left foot, two his right foot and a pair of headers – including a powerhouse effort at Turf Moor.
And he’s hardly been awful under Ole. Lukaku has registered in three of his five appearances under Solskjaer in all competitions, despite being a sub for two.
The 25-year-old also gives the Red Devils an outlet by which to play a more physical, direct game.
While United fans demand attractive football at Old Trafford, sometimes they’ll need a grittier, less possession-based plan on the road. Lukaku is ideal for that, as he proved in September’s match-winning display at Watford.
The case against: Link-up stats and Ole’s style
There’s no question the former Anderlecht prodigy is generally a good finisher and one of the league’s most physically imposing strikers. But he’s not short on limitations.
Earlier in his career, Lukaku had built a reputation for being a regular provider of goals. In each of his four seasons at Everton (and his campaign with West Bromwich Albion) – he managed at least five Premier League assists.
So far this season, he’s recorded just one in 20 Premier League games. For a side who sit as the division’s fifth-highest scorers (with 46 goals), that’s a startlingly poor record.
And it’s not just assists. While he looked confident on the ball in his early months at United, a frequently leaden first-touch and sloppy distribution this term have frustrated many fans.
With the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford also shining at present, Lukaku has plenty to do to regain his place. Especially so with the former pair fitting more neatly into the expansive style which Solskjaer tends to favour.
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