Is Romelu Lukaku really 'untouchable'?
To everyone who does not get the context or meaning of the headline, here is what Jose Mourinho said in his latest interview when asked about Romelu Lukaku's performance in the recent matches and his apparent "goal drought":
"What he does for the team is fantastic and to play football for a striker is not just about scoring goals; I think Romelu is one of the players who should be untouchable in terms of respect from everyone."
The big Belgian brute who enjoyed a fantastic start to his Red Devil's career scoring 11 goals in his first 10 matches, 7 of which came in the first seven matches of the league campaign. Since then he has gone over 5 hours without finding the back of the net, as pointed out by commentators during the pulsating match of Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspurs.
He was particularly criticized for his performance in the shock 2-1 loss against the newly promoted Huddersfield where his silver lining came when he provided the assist that set up Marcus Rashford for the solitary United goal that saved some face for the visiting team.
Even against the mighty Spurs, it was Lukaku's header that paved way for Anthony Martial to break the deadlock, which ultimately became the difference between the two sides.
Mourinho's statement was a reflection of what he thought of the Manchester United supporters who are clearly not happy with their record summer signing's latest performance. "For me, he is untouchable in my team and I think he should be untouchable in the support and the respect he deserves from the fans", the Portuguese said.
The fact that the United supporters expect him to score in every single match says a lot about the reputation earned by the 24-year-old with his exploits in the blue side of the Merseyside and his initial burst for the Red Devils.
He still remains second in the race for the Premier League golden boot, a solitary goal behind the red-hot Harry Kane, and has scored 3 in 3 in the UEFA Champions League. Compared to Ibrahimovich, who scored 4 goals in his first 10 Premier League matches, and one in his first 3 Europa league matches, Lukaku has already justified his place as the top striker in the team.
Add his 3 assists to his impressive goal tally in the Premier League and you will have to say that the £75m paid for him during summer is actually paying huge dividends for Manchester United.
As for his last few matches and his failure to add to this tally, his contribution goes far beyond any personal statistics. A testimony that a lot has changed this season is the fact that United have scored 37 Goals in 15 competitive matches this season at an average of around 2.45 goals per game, compared to 103 goals in 63 matches at an average of 1.63 goals per game last time around.
The stat becomes even more impressive in the Premier League, where Mourinho's men could only score 54 times in 38 games at an average of 1.42 goals per game, having failed to score in 8 of those matches, whereas this season they have been scoring at a healthy average of 2.3 per game having failed to score in just one game i.e the 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool. Clearly, the team is looking fearsome while going forward.
Beyond that, whenever he goes up along with Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial, they look comfortable in each other's presence which is a huge improvement over last year when Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney lacked the pace which led to a lack of creativity for both youngsters in the final third.
His pace and power are there to see for everyone. Not only has that made the defenders more worried while going up against them, it has given license to players like Rashford/Martial/Mkhitaryan to express themselves and put up balls for the big man to chase.
That was evident in the last game with Rashford and Herrera trying to feed Lukaku with long balls from the halfway line. Not only that, Lloris had to clear his lines on multiple occasions when the Belgian outran the Spurs defenders.
If the start is anything to go by, Romelu Lukaku can very well be the talisman that United have been looking for so desperately in the post-Ferguson era. Also, once we see the return of a certain Paul Pogba, the Lukaku-Pogba partnership which was starting to look menacing before being cut short by an injury, will give us the true picture of how well Lukaku fits in the United's scheme of things.
He should comfortably breach the 30 goal barrier this season provided there is no injury layoff. All he needs is the backing of his teammates and supporters along with that of his manager. Hence, Mourinho is not wrong when he says that Lukaku is "Untouchable " in the current Manchester United squad, both in terms of his place and the respect he commands. This is just a minor blip which will soon get over and we will see the towering Belgian finding the back of the net again as we have seen in the last two season.