The Man United boss loves Lukaku.
That’s abundantly clear, and any rumours of a poor relationship between the two after the forward left Chelsea were inaccurate, with Mourinho agreeing Lukaku needed more playing time and supporting him in the decision to leave.
After linking up with the player again at Man United, Mourinho has defended him in the wake of criticism, and stated he is his ‘lieutenant’ on the field, and many people have spoken about just what the forward actually does in games following his outstanding performance against Liverpool – something that epitomised what Mourinho has been saying for months.
The forward may not have been on the score-sheet or back pages like Marcus Rashford, but he was just as vital to the side, making sure Rashford had space and giving Dejan Lovren a truly torrid time.
People questioned if he could do it in the big games, but against Chelsea and now Liverpool, Lukaku has been very impressive, and Mourinho knows he will only improve from this point, with the player’s attitude something his manager loves. Despite being criticised and at times used as a scapegoat for results, Lukaku has kept his head up, kept working and never let the harsh words get to him, unlike Chelsea forward Alvaro Morata, who looks a shadow of his former self.
It’s easy for people to criticise players – but for the players under the most pressure to then go out and perform without being affected takes a huge amount of mental strength. Fernando Torres crumbled at times during his spell with Chelsea, and Man United fans will know they’ve had plenty of players in the past who couldn’t cope with the pressure of being at the club or wearing the shirt. Lukaku clearly can.
Age and intelligence
Lukaku is only 24 years of age – that’s not old by any means for a footballer, and many players don’t reach their peak until a couple of years after. That looks like being the case with Lukaku, and he has Cesc Fabregas syndrome in terms of him seeming far older than he is, just because he broke through into top sides at such a young age, and appears to have been around forever.
That’s not actually the case, and the goal return from the forward is actually very decent for club and country.
He’s the all-time top goalscorer for Belgium and made his senior debut for them in 2010, now having 31 goals and 60 caps to his name.
He netted 17 goals in 35 games for West Brom, and then another 15 goals in 31 games during his loan spell at Everton – and when he made the move permanent, he scored 53 times in 100 games. A one in two ratio isn’t at the levels of Messi or Ronaldo, but it is impressive, and he’s only going to improve on that.
Lukaku can speak multiple languages with French, Dutch, English, Portuguese, Spanish and a Congolese Swahili dialect ones he is fluent in, and he also has a working understanding of German.
The player watches extensive videos of not only other forwards to pick up on what he can take from their games, but also of himself – and is his own worst critic. He has no interest in resting on his laurels and studies the game intently in order to better himself – and now works with Thierry Henry for Belgium, and there aren’t many forwards who are better to learn from than the Frenchman.
The Ivorian might have been a Chelsea legend come the end of his time at the club, but in his first season, many people questioned if he was good enough, after missing chances and scuffing shots.
Of course, he didn’t know the Premier League in the same way Lukaku does – but they play in a very similar way, and the Ivorian was in his mid-20s when he arrived at the club, netting only 12 Premier League goals in his first season at the club – the season after he won the Golden Boot and got 33 goals in all competitions and was a colossus for the Blues and Mourinho.
Much like the way he spoke about Drogba during his first season with the forward, Mourinho comments time and time again how little he actually cares about Lukaku’s goals at the minute, and how much he does for the team and holds the ball up, drawing defenders away so other players can have space and create chances – exactly what he did for Rashford against Liverpool.
Lukaku has noted how much he admires Drogba and looked up to the forward as an example, and he could well reach the peak of his career at an older age – much like Drogba himself.