Why Romelu Lukaku is proving he's Manchester United captain material
Twelve months into his career at Manchester United, Romelu Lukaku's stock is at its highest. The man from Belgium had his best ever season as a professional footballer, leading the line at Old Trafford wonderfully well.
I've already discussed why I think there is more to the 24-year-old than just goals. His all-round game is sheer genius, just look at how well he's playing for the other Red Devils while out in Russia. His pace, movement and awareness is world-class. Go watch Belgium's third goal against Japan again, first, he makes the run that creates the space, secondly, his intelligence to dummy the ball, taking a further defender with him, allowing Nacer Chadli the freedom to slot home and complete the miracle comeback.
Within that Belgium squad, there are several big personalities. Roberto Martinez's 23-man team is rife with stars who are used to being the main man at their respective club sides. Taking control of that is a task too big for a manager to undertake on his own. It's down to the players. At the heart of everything, is Lukaku. He may not have the armband for his country, that honour is Eden Hazard's. In terms of the vocal leader, though, United's #9 comes out head and shoulders above the rest. It's Lukaku who's leading the team huddles in the first few minutes following the match, it's Lukaku who's barking orders during games, it's Lukaku who's telling his teammates to keep their heads when the pressure is at it's highest. Characters like these are a rare breed.
At this point in time, United don't have a permanent captain. Michael Carrick hung up his boots at last season's end, a new one will be appointed within the next month. Personally, David de Gea was the only viable candidate just six months ago, now, the standout has to be Lukaku.
The man who carries the burden of wearing the armband has to be cool, calm and collected at all times. It's about keeping your head. Any side will face moments when they're under the cosh. It's up to the leader to compose himself, get his teammates organised and regroup. Lukaku's proven capable. He can do that. De Gea's a great player, no doubt, I just don't see him as the vocal leader that the Red Devils need their captain to be. That's not a knock on the Spaniard, either. Leadership comes naturally.
Lukaku has made the point that Jose Mourinho sees him as his sergeant. He's someone who'll dig deep for the good of the cause. We're looking at a player who doesn't mind doing the dirty work. He'll put his team before himself, which is unusual for a striker. Forwards are usually so selfish when staring down the barrel. Lukaku's the opposite. He actively looks for the pass. The perfect team player.
Sure, United's new cult hero still has learning to do. He's young. At this point in time, though, he's the standout candidate. Would you really trust the inconsistent Paul Pogba to drag his side through a tough game when the Old Trafford club are 1-0 down? Probably not. Give it Lukaku, watch him grow and flourish. He's tailor-made for the job.