Manchester United are set to bolster their frontline, following the injury and subsequent release of former star-forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Having reportedly shown interest in Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata all summer, the Red Devils swooped in and sealed the deal for Everton forward Romelu Lukaku, who looked set to move back to Chelsea, as they themselves looked to replace the unwanted Diego Costa.
Some of the UK’s top publications including Sky Sports and BBC Sport reported that a £75 million fee had been agreed between the Old Trafford club and Everton on Thursday, the 6th of July, but was matched by Chelsea the very next day, leaving the decision for Lukaku. But on Saturday, the deal was almost complete, with confirmation on the club’s official website that the two sides had indeed agreed a fee – with the Belgian international’s arrival imminent.
With Lukaku set to join the Red Devils, United are getting a much more dynamic forward than their previous options in attack. The side have struggled to score goals across all competitions, under all three of their managers, since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013. The league’s second highest goal scorer last season, he is sure to bolster their attack and improve their challenge for the Premier League title.
The Belgian brings more assurance to the number 9 role that he is being purchased to play. As compared to his predecessor, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lukaku is an out-and-out target man and a clinical finisher. The Swedish forward often dropped back last season, becoming more of a playmaker than a target man and, at the same time, was often very wasteful when it came to clear goal scoring opportunities.
Lukaku possessed a brilliant shot conversion rate of 22.5% in the Premier League, wasting just eight clear goal scoring chances, while Ibrahimovic had a lower shot success rate of 14.8%, wasting 18 clear cut chances – the worst record in the English top flight.
Romelu Lukaku’s chance conversion rate increased each year after joining Everton:
2014/15 = 13.2% ?
2015/16 = 20.9% ?
2016/17 = 29.1% ?
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 8, 2017
Like Ibrahimovic, Lukaku is good with both feet, but is superior to the former with his head. The striker puts his six-foot three-inch frame to good use and has scored 18 times with his head since the 2012/13 season – a record only bettered by his Belgian compatriot Christian Benteke (19) and Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud (25).
No Manchester United player scored more than twice with their weaker foot last season, but Lukaku did so seven times with his right. He is a well-rounded forward who is certain to improve his new club’s dwindling goal return each season.
Lukaku is also the only player to score more than five goals with his right foot, left foot and head last season, which will be a welcome statistic to the Old Trafford faithful, who have seen some clinically brilliant forwards over the years.
Romelu Lukaku was the only Premier League player in 2016/17 to score 5+ goals with his head, left and right foot.
6 head pic.twitter.com/AYKhXUGX1N
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 6, 2017
Romelu Lukaku also provides more mobility to the Red Devils’ attack. With explosive pace to lead the frontline, this is a crucial aspect that is currently missing, despite United’s abundance of creative talent, that includes the likes of Henrikh Mkitaryan, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba. Unlike Ibrahimovic, who was never lauded for his pace, even in his younger days, Lukaku brings more directness to the Manchester United attack which would be an appealing factor to José Mourinho.
The Belgian forward attempted 64 take-ons in the Premier League, more than 3.5 times more than Ibrahimovic’s 17. And, despite having the greater number, he was also more successful in completing them, with his 66.67% being better than Ibrahimovic’s 51.52%. He also completed more dribbles per 90 minutes than Ibrahimovic – a decent rate at 1.7 – which is a really good record for an out-and-out forward, and much better than the Swede’s 0.6 per game.
On the ball, Lukaku offers a greater threat than their previous forwards and is a more viable first-team option than some of the other strikers who have lead the line at the club, including Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Javier Hernández.
Only Southampton (10.7%) and relegated duo Middlesbrough (11.3%) and Sunderland (11.6%) had a worse conversion rate than Manchester United (13%) last term and, with Lukaku’s arrival, that number may not be as bad next season.
One of the most clinical in the top flight, Lukaku brings more guarantee and youthfulness to the Manchester United attack as José Mourinho looks to challenge on the domestic and continental fronts next season. The Belgian will be a shrewd signing and will allow the likes of Mkhitaryan, Martial and Paul Pogba to blossom, with the club looking to establish dominance with a budding squad.