Romelu Lukaku was undoubtedly one of Manchester United's top performers last season. Having arrived from Everton for a hefty £70 million last summer, many pundits and fans questioned whether the Belgian striker could make the step up and perform consistently at a higher level.
This point was quickly squashed, as Lukaku scored 27 goals in all competitions and established himself as a fan favourite amongst the Old Trafford faithful.
The big Belgian also received the full backing of his manager last season, with Jose Mourinho opting to use the striker as the side's leading striker whenever he was match fit. This therefore suggests that United fans will see Lukaku in the starting lineup this coming Sunday against Brighton after a well-deserved rest after Belgium's World Cup campaign.
A Rejuvenated Rom
As mentioned, Lukaku received a well-deserved rest after his nation's impressive World Cup campaign, with Belgium finishing the competition in third place.
The striker added four goals to his international tally, extending his lead as Belgium's record goal-scorer to ten goals. Lukaku will therefore enter the United dressing room full of confidence, eager as always to show his worth to the fans.
During the World Cup, Lukaku not only showcased his quality as a footballer on the field but also as a leader off it. The center forward was captured frequently leading his side's team talks, a factor which proved popular with United fans back home.
This passion and desire that Lukaku showed is certainly a reason why he has in fact been able to take his game up a level over the last 12 months as his determination is simply second to none.
A system built for Lukaku
Under Mourinho, United have predominantly set up in the orthodox 4-3-3 formation, meaning that the man up top is required to lead the line as a lone striker. The system is therefore the perfect fit for a forward like Lukaku as he excels in holding the ball up and bringing his teammates into play.
These are the type of attributes that Mourinho likes to see in his forward players as it allows an extra man to be deployed in the middle and allow for a more compact structure of the team.
In the 4-3-3 system, it requires Lukaku to work hard and unselfishly for the team but it is a role that he flourishes in, subsequently making him United's first choice striker in the squad.
The only viable option?
As mentioned, Lukaku fits United's 4-3-3 system like a glove and it is very rare that Mourinho changes this style of play. This, of course, results in a heavy reliance on the Belgian and when he's absent, United lose a lot of fluidity in their offensive play.
Marcus Rashford was deployed in this role against Leicester City on the opening day of the season, a game in which he was in and out of.
There must however be some sympathy for the young Englishman as United's players have become accustom to playing in and around Lukaku, so much so that the side now require a target man to transition from midfield to attack.
After struggling to get into United's first team side last season, there is only so much fans can expect from Rashford when he is thrown in the team as he rarely has the chance to gather any momentum.
It is expected that Lukaku will return to the starting XI this Sunday against Brighton, not to the surprise of any fans. United do certainly look a more completed side with the Belgian in the side and his goals were pivotal in helping the club finish second in the league last season.
There is however the underlying concern that United have become too reliant on Lukaku and they will need to conjure up a Plan B, for the games where he is not around.
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