As the season is drawing to a close, Manchester United are spectacularly in the running for one of the four European spots despite a largely uninspiring season under Louis Van Gaal. Having sold three forwards since his arrival, the Dutchman has somehow managed to keep his side in the running for the Champions League places and possible silverware in the form of the FA Cup, thanks to youngsters Anthony Martial and more recently Marcus Rashford, covering for their captain’s prolonged absence from the squad due to an ankle ligament tear.
2015 has not been Rooney’s best year and if anything, it has turned out to be his worst statistically, since he broke onto the scene as an abrasive 16-year old tipped for a great future in 2004. Age is catching up with the England and Manchester United skipper and at 30-years old it is hard to expect him to play at a level he used to, two or even three times a week on a consistent basis. Whether or not he could prolong his playing career by shifting to a deeper midfield role remains an interesting debate but for Manchester United, it’s time they looked for able replacements – as they prepare to face another potentially huge summer.
The problems for United this season has not been at the back. In fact, for all the flak they get for giving away plenty of chances in games and fielding a makeshift back four almost always in the Premier League under Van Gaal, they have a really good defensive record this season – as only Spurs have conceded fewer goals in the league, thanks to Chris Smalling’s improvement and David De Gea’s towering presence in front of the sticks. They seem to have struggled at the other end, as United have failed to produce the goals, often drawing blanks against sides they should not, in fact leading to a league high 0-0 number of scorelines.
Manchester United have only managed to score 38 in 30 games this campaign, the fewest they have managed at this stage of the season in the Premier League era with the likes of Everton, West Ham, and Southampton managing more. Even suffering their worst season since Abramovich’s takeover, Chelsea have still raked in seven more goals than Man United, who sit three places above them in the league table. All of this points toward the need to buy a forward who could score 20 goals in the league, a focal point of attack, to quote Van Gaal here, that United can build their playing style around.
One would argue that United already posses a forward of that calibre in French teenager Anthony Martial but what they need now is a player who can make the difference right from the word go – a proven forward who can keep himself fit and sustain his level for a long period in the league. Fortunately, they should look no further than Everton’s Lukaku who fits the description to a tee.
Romelu Lukaku has excelled at Everton since his permanent move to the Merseyside club on the back of his short and unsuccessful career at Chelsea. His loan stint at West Bromwich Albion got him acclimatised to the demands of the league but ever since he moved North, he’s been unstoppable. The Belgian has got it all in his locker. Similar to Rooney in several aspects, the Belgian made his debut when he was still at school, likes to keep the defenders occupied with his well-timed runs from the inside channels, deceptively quick and also has powerful shot.
Add to it his aerial ability and the fact that he is on the verge of scoring 20 goals for the first time in his career in England’s top division, Lukaku is a player who is bound to go places. He knows the league as well as anyone, is not fazed by the big occasion, in fact the 22-year old Belgian has confessed his desire to play for a bigger club (no disrespect to Everton meant), while his agent Mino Raiola was recently quoted saying Lukaku was ‘ready’ for the big European clubs indicating the Belgian’s desire to move in the summer, if the right offer came calling. Raiola talking about his client in a closed-doors interview said,
“He’ll be even better. It all depends on his work, a bit of luck, and making the right choices. Potential wise, he’s already ready to play in the best European teams. I’m not surprised at all. Romelu is superior physically and humanely to a lot of players. He’s got a heart of gold, which is very important in football, but also a lot of talent. Since we’ve been working together, we’ve put together a structure that allows him to only think about football. This allows him to focus solely on his personal objectives, which, in the end, is the most important.”
Manchester United would fall into that category certainly as Romelu Lukaku even dropped a hint saying he used to love watching teams like Manchester United and Bayern Munich sticking to attacking football and winning games. Although, things have rather changed at Old Trafford, it should not deter a youngster from wanting to move to a bigger club, in the same region, who could also offer the chance to play in Europe, which Everton are not likely to offer next season.
Having scored 25 goals this season in all competitions, Lukaku could just be that player Manchester United need to take their promising talent up front to the next level that would give them the luxury of options they require to be more competitive than they have been post Sir Alex. With the asking price of more than £50-million being mooted by Everton’s hierarchy, not many football clubs in Europe, let alone England, can afford to fork that much money out, but if Manchester United with their unrivalled cash reserves are to reinforce their squad with proven young talent there should be no hesitation in doing so.