Friday, February 28, 2020

Calm Down, Everybody: Romelu Lukaku Just Needed Playing Time

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Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have been, without a doubt, the two most criticized players in the Manchester United squad during the 2018-19 season. But we will focus entirely on the former Everton and West Bromwich striker this time.

The Belgian striker had been relegated to a secondary role, but understandably so. After all, the attacking trio of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial had been working beautifully since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over. But Lukaku was being criticized unfairly. After all, he remains as one of the best strikers in the world. His performances with the Belgium National Team are no fluke, but for some reason, he hadn’t been able to replicate that with Manchester United.

And while no player wants to be part of the starting XI due to the injury of a teammate, Lukaku just needed a chance. It came when both Martial and Lingard suffered injuries in recent weeks, and the towering striker has seized the opportunity.

Productivity at its finest

The numbers are there for everyone to see them. Lukaku got the start against Crystal Palace earlier this week, and responded with two goals in United’s 3-1 win over The Eagles. With Martial and Lingard still out – and perhaps rewarded by his strong performance – Lukaku once again started against Southampton this Saturday. The result? Another brace in a huge comeback win for The Red Devils. Lukaku found the back of the net twice in the second half, and his goals lifted United to a huge win over the resilient Saints.

Two games are a VERY small sample size, there’s no question about it. But Lukaku has bagged four goals in his last two starts. Goals aside, he looks more comfortable leading the way upfront. His touches have been more accurate, and he is participating a lot more in the overall play of the side. That was one of his main problems when Jose Mourinho was running things at Old Trafford. Lukaku often looked isolated upfront, and that forced him to score to remain relevant.

Is this sustainable?

It remains to be seen whether the Belgian will remain in the starting XI but with a tough matchup against PSG on the horizon, all signs indicate he will get another chance in the lineup. Especially since Sanchez suffered an apparent ligament injury on Saturday against The Saints. But Lukaku deserves a spot on the starting XI. And it seems to have re-gained both his, and Solskjaer’s, confidence.

Now, it would be quite a stretch to expect braces in every single game from the Belgian. But he has enough quality to be among the top scorers in the Premier League. He needed to play first, and then re-gain his confidence. It’s safe to say he has accomplished both goals over the last week or so.

As it turns out, he only needed playing time to remain productive. And has stepped it up just like his manager asked him to.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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