Is Romelu Lukaku solely at fault for his disappointing start to the season?
During his remarkably prolific debut season at Manchester United, Romelu Lukaku was heralded as Jose Mourinho's general. The Belgium forward struck 27 times across all competitions. The Red Devils found their new go-to hitman. Or so they thought...
Towards 2017/18's back-end, the 25-year-old began to struggle. Those worries were quashed after an excellent summer playing for the other Red Devils, as Lukaku struck four times during the World Cup. However, upon his return to Manchester, the domestic worries continue.
Over United's four-game winless streak, it is Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Mr Mourinho who are scooping all the headlines. Lukaku is seemingly getting away with some awful performances recently. He looks like a man completely bereft of confidence.
The question I'd like to ask is why?
It obviously doesn't help when you're playing in a defence-first system, but the counter-argument to that is that it's the same tactics in which he flourished in last term. Perhaps he, like the aforementioned Pogba and Sanchez, is suffering from Mourinho's third-season syndrome. Eventually, toxicity in the dressing room will take its toll on each and every one of the squad members. Slowly but surely, they'll turn against their manager. That's just the nature of the modern-day game. Player power is more prevalent than I've ever known.
Then you have to look at chance creation. Scoring goals becomes a habit. It's why the best strikers tend to go on hot-streaks as they begin to find their feet. If those opportunities aren't coming your way, how on earth are you supposed to build up that all-important morale?
Tuesday night summed it up for me. Lukaku looked like a deer in the headlights. It was frustrating. He was struggling with the basics; something in which he usually excels in. The hold-up play wasn't there, his passing was wayward, he looked as though he was running through treacle. It's hardly inspiring for his teammates. United's #9 is supposed to ease the pressure on the defence and midfield, when those guys see the ball bouncing off him left, right and centre, all it does is increase the pressure on the team as a whole.
He's in a funk at the moment. The only way to get himself out of that is to keep playing. The chances will come. No doubt he'll miss a few here and there. He's done that far too frequently this term. I cast my mind back to Brighton away and Tottenham at home. Two clear-cut opportunities were missed. Since then, he's been on a progressive downward spiral.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that Lukaku is struggling. He has to take some of the blame on the chin, it's not all down to him, though. He's playing in a struggling team. The frustration is building within the squad. Chances aren't coming his way. When they rarely do, he's missing them.
United have to stick with him, though. They don't really have any other options whom they can rely upon and trust wholeheartedly. Lukaku is too good to keep down. He'll rediscover those shooting boots eventually. For Red Devils fans, they'll be hoping it happens sooner rather than later.