Romelu Lukaku proves he can be that big-game player for Manchester United
At the end of 90 minutes, all the Manchester United players made their way towards Romelu Lukaku to give him a pat on the back.
The big Belgian, brought to Old Trafford for €75 million in the summer, had just delivered one of his best performances as a Man United player – and against a top side.
While manager Jose Mourinho has had to answer questions over his reported fallout with Paul Pogba, the lead up to the Chelsea clash was dominated by talk of whether the Portuguese had made the right purchase to lead his side’s attack.
Lukaku’s form against top opposition was a source of worry most Red Devils fans, as he had not registered a single goal against the Premier League’s top eight teams.
However, on Sunday the 24-year-old showed glimpses of the player that he could become at Old Trafford. He chased down every ball, pressured the Chelsea defence into making mistakes, and adapted very well to playing with his back to the goal.
His goal on 39 minutes was the least he deserved and should, perhaps, have had a brace but for the magic fists of Thibaut Courtois, who saved his goal-bound volley in the second half.
The former Everton striker has often been criticized for a lack of flair, but his pinpoint cross for Jesse Lingard to head home the winner showed exactly why he could soon become Man United big-game player.
On a day when a lot was expected from the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Pogba and Anthony Martial, it was Lukaku who shined brightest, scoring and assisting another as Mourinho’s men came from behind to win 2-1 against Chelsea.
"He played fantastically well. At first, he didn't find the right timing and lost the ball at times," Mourinho told a post-match news conference.
"But then he went together with the team and finished the game and people go home with the image of the run where he could have gone and got a goal. It was important for us to open the gap."
Lukaku may have taken a lot of games before breaking his dock against a top side in the Premier League, but the fact is that his previous barren spell was not entirely his fault.
Earlier this season when Man United played against Liverpool and Manchester City they set up to defend throughout the game.
That kind of tactics is definitely bound to hinder any striker’s chances of scoring in big games, and the Belgian has had to contend with that.
However, against Chelsea, when Mourinho finally opted to open the game up in the second half, the striker benefitted greatly just like the whole team did.
It’s already 22 goals for Lukaku this season, and his man-of-the-match performance against Chelsea shows he can become that big-game player that Man United have lacked in recent years – provided the right tactics are deployed.