The initial reaction to the news that Manchester United were in advanced talks including agreeing a fee in a staggering deal to sign Everton’s Romelu Lukaku was one of utter disbelief. This slowly morphed into shock and now, having had a couple of days to process everything, this writer is positively excited and completely convinced that the soon-to-be-confirmed move makes total sense to United – in almost every aspect.
To understand and even quantify what Lukaku could bring to Manchester United, one is fortunately spared from having to binge-watch YouTube compilations and simulate a fresh season factoring in the complexities of the Premier League or browse scout reports on the internet, for the Belgian already boasts a large bag of goals and assists in England’s top division, so much so that it is hard to believe he is only 24 years old with a couple more gears in him.
Romelu Lukaku was the second highest goalscorer in the Premier League last season with 25 goals (1 from penalties) and 6 assists – taking his combined tally to 31 (only behind Harry Kane and Alexis Sanchez). But the similarities between the Belgian and the rest of the top five marksmen in the league end there.
Among the league’s five highest goalscorers – Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and himself – the 24-year old fares the worst in passing success rate which is well under 70% while averaging almost three times as much as any other in the aforementioned list of names when it comes to winning aerial duels. Numbers often reflect only one side of the story, but in this case, it mirrors the general consensus as to what Lukaku’s strengths and weaknesses are.
He, in a way, offers the best of both worlds. The Belgian international could be deadly as the best of poachers should be in front of goal, yet he is also able to hold his own when tasked with the responsibilities to lead the line as the lone forward – which is often the type of role he would be playing under the Portuguese.
He is strong, deceptively quick and could score all kinds of goals which makes him, categorically the best option for Mourinho’s United despite not really being the best all-round footballer, as such. Averaging a remarkably efficient 3 shots per goal with Everton under Ronald Koeman, Lukaku will also likely solve United’s primary issue last season: putting chances away.
Manchester United created the fourth highest number of chances in the league (406) which puts them ahead of the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, who not only finished above the Red Devils in the league, powered by killer instinct that United lacked almost throughout the campaign, but also scored 20 plus goals more than Mourinho’s side.
As a consequence, Manchester United ended up eighth behind Bournemouth in terms of goals scored (54) – which ties into their poor record at home – winning less than half of their games at Old Trafford.
Theoretically, signing a player that averages one goal in three shots should improve a side that scores one in almost 12 shots. Besides that, the likelihood of the Belgian, who has built his reputation in the Premier League as one of the division’s most powerful strikers – hitting the ground running immediately with his new club is considerably higher than a foreign recruit of similar skill-set and stature.
Even the criticism of Lukaku being a flat-track bully can only further enhance his importance at his future club and potentially explain why Mourinho will benefit from this likely big money acquisition. 23 of his 25 goals have come against teams outside the top seven, which are exactly the sort of teams the Red Devils struggled to win against in 2016/17.
So rare has a transfer made more sense than the prospect of Lukaku moving from the blue of Merseyside to the Red of Manchester.
Even from a PR point of view, Manchester United look to have killed two birds with one stone, bolstering their attack whilst preventing the champions from signing their prime candidate to replace the outgoing Costa, who Jose Mourinho had signed in his second season to fire Chelsea to a first Premier League title win in five years.
It remains to be seen whether the Portuguese could repeat the feat with Romelu Lukaku at the forefront of it at Manchester United.