“He’s an important guy for me, one of the guys that I trust,” said Mourinho at his press conference ahead of the Liverpool game.
“I love the attitude, I love the character.
“Against Crystal Palace, there was nothing that happened after our third goal but I told him ‘central defender!’, so after the third goal he was playing central defender in a back five with Smalling and Lindelof because I couldn’t make any more changes”.
“He is a guy you can trust, his attitude is phenomenal.
“That is why I always thought and told you many times for me it’s not just about the goals he scored but what he brings to the team and he brings to the team that exact spirit.” – Jose Mourinho, Manchester United manager
Romelu Lukaku is a mystifying player in that the criticism he gets is confounding and excessive. Even his most faithful supporters would concede that he isn’t the most refined player. He’s not a Rolls Royce big man in the mould of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It’s more apt to liken him to a trailer head with his menacing power, strength and deceptive speed. Sometimes a trailer head is what’s required, and his critics must understand that you can take the bad if the good outweighs it.
No player is without fault. Lukaku’s faults are borne from his size. He doesn’t have a poor control because he is big. His control is sometimes lacking because, growing up, he was that much bigger than his peers that he needn’t focus on the finer points and instead developed his finishing, power and speed. It was an error on the part of his coaches, but there was a silver lining in all this.
Lukaku is oddly quick for his size (any size, really) and is an unwavering finisher when on form. Anybody who has analysed his play should know all this.
What we didn’t know was how tough an individual he is, and that’s what Manchester United fans should be most pleased in.
Life in Manchester got off to a rollicking start for Lukaku, scoring three times in 238 minutes of preseason football, including one against Real Madrid that underlined his class as a goalscorer. There were two major doubts surrounding Lukaku coming in to Manchester. First, his performance in big games; and second, his work ethic as he was accused of being lazy by manager and supporter alike. On the first count, he’s done little to silence those who doubt until the last two against Chelsea and Liverpool. There he’s shown incredible maturity and determination to make decisive contributions to two victories. That’s what supporters want. His touch will never be silky. He’s too far gone for that, but the other aspects of his game, many unquantifiable, have come on leaps and bounds to smooth over the cracks.
“He’s not had too much rest, he’s played virtually every match and not had much time to recover, because of the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But he’s done really well. He came with a big price-tag, but he’s done well” – Andy Cole, former Manchester United striker
No player is perfect, and as simplistic as it sounds, this must be understood. Lukaku is not at the top, but his newfound resilience can get him to the top class level capable of odd world class contributions.