Romelu Lukaku made it six goals in six Premier League games on Saturday afternoon, equalling the best start any striker has ever made at Manchester United. Louis Saha is the only other player the club has seen achieve the same feat, back in 2004.
His reaction to the final whistle at St Mary’s, after United beat Southampton 1-0, tells you everything about how competitive he is and how desperate he is to see his team do well. The win puts United second in the table on goal difference, with Lukaku leading the line for a side competing for the title for the first time in his career.
Lukaku wasn’t prepared to bide his time at Chelsea and made the move to Everton, a backward step that his agent, Mino Raiola, claimed would never have happened if he had been advising the striker at the time.
Maybe it was his transfer to Goodison Park that lead for some people to underestimate Lukaku, despite his ridiculously impressive goal scoring record. At the age of 23, he had more goals than Michael Owen, Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney had amassed at the same age, yet when United paid £75 million for him, some people claimed they had been ripped off.
In a transfer window that has seen the market go crazy, the money United paid for Lukaku is looking better by the week.
“I think we were very clever,” Mourinho said on the day the window closed. “I think Lukaku on August 31 would have been £150 million.”
Nobody has scored more Premier League goals than Lukaku so far this season, with him clearly not overawed by playing for a club this size. With a total of eight goals in eight games in all competitions for United, as well as four goals in two games in World Cup qualifiers for Belgium during the international break, Lukaku is enjoying a fantastic run.
He has fitted in seamlessly and Mourinho has argued that it’s not just his goals that we should be praising him for.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all playing considerably better this season than they were last. Lukaku can’t take all of the credit for that, obviously, but he is a great target man and his movement makes it easy for those around him to shine.
People will continue to compare him to Alvaro Morata, the striker Antonio Conte settled for after Lukaku snubbed a return to Chelsea in favour of signing for Mourinho at United, and the Spaniard’s hattrick against Stoke puts him level with Lukaku’s tally.
The number of goals isn’t the only thing the strikers have in common either, with the fans of both player’s clubs penning racist chants to praise their new signings. Morata was the first to ask the fans to stop, a statement supported by Conte, and the Chelsea fans at Stoke duly modified the lyrics.
Lukaku has also asked the United fans to stop singing his song, but Mourinho refused to answer a question on the matter, and the away supporters at St Mary’s persisted, followed by a chorus of “we’ll sing what we want!” It’s difficult to work out how they can justify such a song when the player himself has asked for them not to do it. If Chelsea fans are outdoing you when it comes to race relations, you know you must be doing something wrong!
Still, it’s unlikely that the fans who choose to disrespect him will have a negative impact on his performances, given how hard he has worked to get himself in to the position he is now.
“It feels great,” Lukaku said in the summer, when asked how it felt to be a United player. “It is something I always wanted. I always wanted to play for a club of this stature. Now I am here I want to take my chance and try to deliver as much as I could for the club.”
You wouldn’t bet against him winning the Golden Boot this season, but it must be the silverware that he is really craving.
When Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, the teenage Lukaku wasn’t included in the match day squad, and when Salomon Kalou handed him the trophy, he asked for his teammate to take it away.
Five years later, if United are to win anything this season, you would imagine that Lukaku will play a central role and will deserve to lift any trophies as much as anyone in the squad. But there’s a long way to go yet.