Romelu Lukaku has told Sky Sports that he believes the reason he is seldom dropped or rested for Manchester United is because he is manager Jose Mourinho’s “sergeant on the pitch”.
In an interview with Sky Sports pundit and his Belgian coach Thierry Henry, Manchester United striker Lukaku has said that he believes he is Mourinho’s “sergeant” when he plays and that he has a “soldier mentality”.
That is the reason he believes he has featured so heavily this season following his big-money switch to Old Trafford from Everton.
He said: “I think the manager… thinks that I’m like his sergeant on the pitch. He knows I have that soldier mentality. I will always put the team first.”
Yes, Lukaku – who is valued at £76.5m by transfermarkt.co.uk – has featured heavily this season but his comments about his attitude so not bear scrutiny.
The reason the Belgian plays so often is that Mourinho likes having that physical presence up front. It was the same with Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season.
Essentially, United still aren’t good enough on the ball to work the ball up the pitch often enough. That means they need the out ball that a taller, stronger striker like Lukaku is meant to offer.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial do not fit the bill in the same way. They like running in behind but United’s play isn’t good or intricate to make the most of that on a regular basis.
Lukaku’s commitment to the cause has improved in recent weeks and he openly showed great commitment in his celebrations following the comeback wins over London pair Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
To point to his strong mentality and refer to himself as “soldier” misses the point, however. He is frequently out-muscled and beaten in the air without offering enough of a challenge.
Earlier in the season, he only seemed to come to life to put the gloss on thrashings but did not offer anywhere enough while the game was in the balance.
Further, his meek surrenders in away matches against Liverpool and Chelsea – among others – do not hint at such an attitude. In contrast, Marcus Rashford was ill for last season’s FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea but still played and worked tirelessly as a lone striker in a team that had ten men for over half the game.
Lukaku has grossly overstated his importance to the United team.