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Manchester United: Why Romelu Lukaku can surpass Didier Drogba

With six goals in as many Premier League games, the Belgian has made a blistering start to life at Old Trafford.


Despite still his relative youth, it feels Lukaku has been around for a long while.

He burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old for Anderlecht, catching all of Europe’s attention with his incredible physique and power for someone so young, yet having that natural goal-scorer’s instinct. Lukaku scored 131 goals in 93 matches for the youth sides of the Belgian club and made his first-team debut just 11 days after turning 16.

He looked a phenomenal athlete.

Lukaku spent two years playing first-team football for Anderlecht, scoring 33 goals in 73 league games before Chelsea splashed the cash, believing him to be the natural successor to Didier Drogba.

He signed for the Blues for an initial £10 million, rising to £17 million.

Lukaku vs Drogba

The similarities between both Lukaku and Drogba were obvious and subtle.

Lukaku had the size, power, strength and sheer physical presence that Drogba has possessed throughout his career, yet there was a rawness to his game, similar to when the Ivorian signed for the West London club in 2004.

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There were inconsistencies in their games, expected for two young strikers coming to England for the first time.

Finishing from the pair often seemed rushed and lacked composure, whilst they were both still trying to find ways to best utilise their strength and power.

Key stat: After nine seasons of professional football, Lukaku has scored 118 league goals. Drogba had scored 73.

However, the difference was that Drogba got ample opportunity to improve and become the force for Chelsea that he ended up being, whilst Lukaku played just 15 games for the Blues, the vast majority coming on as a sub.

However, Lukaku would soon prove himself as a Premier League striker

From rags to riches

A loan move to West Brom for the 2012/13 season saw the Belgian score 17 Premier League goals in 35 appearances. Whilst there was still a rawness to his game, Lukaku was now a presence to be reckoned with.

His finishing was sharper, he could bully defenders, and he displayed his often underappreciated intelligence at drifting into goal-scoring positions, aiming to be a step ahead of his opponent.

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However, it was at Everton where Lukaku truly made a name for himself.

An initial loan spell at the Toffees yielded 15 league goals, prompting Everton to sign the Belgian for a then club record £28 million.

Over the next three seasons, Lukaku netted 53 league goals for Everton and the decision for Chelsea to sell the ‘new Drogba’ before they’d even given him a chance was one the club clearly regretted.

Antonio Conte was said to be desperate to re-sign Lukaku to the Chelsea blue in the summer, however, he opted for a fresh challenge at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho, signing for the Red Devils for £75 million.

The trophy haul

Again, you would be forgiven for expecting Lukaku to be the finished article, forgetting he has only turned 24 in the last few months. In fact, to put that in perspective, by the time he turned 24, Lukaku had already scored 165 club goals.

Drogba had only scored 18 by the same age. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had 110, Luis Suarez 164, and Cristiano Ronaldo 145.

Lukaku still has a long way to go to reach the levels of those strikers, but it is possible he can surpass the achievements of Drogba.

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Drogba scored 164 goals for Chelsea in two spells at the club, and whilst those goal-scoring exploits are impressive, it was the moments he gave to Chelsea, and the influence he had in their most successful-ever era that gives him legendary status at the club.

The Ivorian scored the winning penalty in the shootout of their one and only Champions League triumph against Bayern Munich in 2012. He led the line for the club in their first ever Premier League title triumph and then helped the club win it again the following year.

Drogba scored the winning goal in the first ever FA Cup final at the new Wembley stadium in 2007 and won that trophy a further three times.

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Drogba was a man for the big occasion and won 14 titles in his time at Chelsea and was a major force in every single one of those victories.

So whilst Lukaku may have the goal-scoring prowess, to reach the levels and status of Drogba, and even surpass him, he must win titles and provide those moments that decide those titles.

Lukaku the bully

However, it would be nonsensical to believe the Belgian isn’t capable of doing just that. He has eight goals in his first eight games for United and already looks to be exactly what they were missing up front.

Ibrahimovic may have been a revelation last season, however, he doesn’t have the same athleticism as the younger Lukaku and United struggled to beat the lesser sides at home last season, which he was largely culpable for.

Lukaku has proven himself to be a flat track bully, and United are now putting the smaller sides to the sword, largely due to the Belgian’s contribution. Lukaku often flatters to deceive against the bigger sides, though United are his first major club.

Expect that to change. There’s no reason Lukaku won’t dominate those sides either.

A student of the game

He has professed to be a student of the game, spending hours researching other top strikers and the movements of his opponents to get the best of them. This aspect of his game, as previously alluded to, is often ignored, as it was with Drogba.

People will look at his power and size and believe him to lack composure or subtlety. In fact, Lukaku’s movement is sublime.

Notice his goal against Stoke City.

Lukaku was constantly moving to create a passing angle for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, pulling himself off the shoulder of the defender and timing his run to perfection.

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Strikers are taught to gamble, and he is constantly positioning himself in order to be available in a great goal-scoring position in case of a defensive turnover.

Lukaku has it all. There may be question marks over his first touch and consistency of his finishing though that is improving all the time.

Remember, he is still only 24.

So whilst he has a long way to go to match or better the achievements and status of Drogba, it is possible.

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

Manchester United: Why Romelu Lukaku can surpass Didier Drogba

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