Will Romelu Lukaku fire Man Utd to the title?
Manchester United are closing in on the £75m capture of Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.
The 24-year-old underwent a medical in Los Angeles overnight and is expected to be confirmed as a United player very soon.
So, is he the player to fire United back to Premier League glory in 2017/18? With Lukaku’s signing imminent but not yet official, bet365 is offering odds of 10/3 on United becoming champions next season. That makes them second favourites behind neighbours Manchester City in the bookies’ opinion.
United have not won the title since 2012/13, which was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, and they finished sixth last season in Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge.
It is easy to see how Lukaku might help to improve that situation. United scored just 54 Premier League goals last season. The sides above them all scored significantly more goals: Chelsea (85), Tottenham Hotspur (86), Manchester City (80), Liverpool (78) and Arsenal (77).
Even Lukaku’s Everton, who finished one place behind United in seventh, scored 62 goals. The Belgium international contributed 25 of them. United’s top scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, managed 17 goals.
Ibrahimovic took 116 shots with 55 per cent accuracy, while Lukaku took 110 shots with 64 per cent accuracy, despite having played nine games or 824 minutes more than Ibrahimovic.
Lukaku is aged 24 and coming into the prime of his career, whereas 35-year-old Ibrahimovic was never going to be a long-term option.
Aside from the statistics, it also looks like a good match on a practical level. Mourinho has always favoured a 9.5 as his centre forward: a powerful targetman who offers more to the team than that alone. Didier Drogba at Chelsea is the obvious example.
Like Drogba, Lukaku is strong, a handful for defenders and clinical in front of goal. But he also scores goals from taking people on and driving into the penalty area. He is more mobile than Ibrahimovic – a problem that became more apparent when the rest of United’s attack flourished with the pace of Marcus Rashford up front when the Swedish superstar was injured at the end of the 2016/17 campaign.
For all the upheaval and injuries in their defence, United had the second meanest backline in the league last season behind only Spurs. If they can maintain that record, Lukaku’s goals should have a major impact on the team’s fortunes.
Last season was dogged by underwhelming draws at Old Trafford when United either struggled to make the breakthrough against a supposedly weaker opponent or, having taken the lead, failed to kill off the game and ended up getting pegged back. Again, you would expect Lukaku to convert the chances that would turn many of those draws into wins and fire United further up the table.
There is no doubt that a lack of goals and a lack of killer instinct in front of goal was United’s major problem last season. Lukaku looks like the ideal candidate to address that.