Ahead of Romelu Lukaku’s medical at Manchester United, the talk has naturally focused on the Belgian’s £75m price tag. But there’s another big story here – that Jose Mourinho has added a striker who breaks the club’s historic mould of forwards.
Traditionally, United have gone for players in one of two camps.
First, off, they’ve had the prolific but otherwise limited goal-poachers. Nobody would ever say that Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Teddy Sheringham were great footballers.
None of them contributed a huge amount to the Red Devils’ all-round game, but all three – the latter two in particular – were huge successes, because they played up front for United in a time where world-class service from the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham was guaranteed.
The issue for Mourinho is that a striker that purely feeds off chances wouldn’t work right now. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic – a natural finisher – was required to do a fair chunk of the leg work last term, directly assisting 10 goals in all competitions.
Ibra is one of the ‘other’ category of United strikers – tenacious and talismanic forwards. It’s company he shares with terrace heroes like Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona. Those players weren’t insanely prolific, but each chipped in with a good number of goals, and helped build a winning mentality at Old Trafford.
Lukaku’s something different. Not only is he United’s first ‘target man’ in memory, but also in the way he combines the attributes of the two above groups.
A proverbial ‘unit’, the former Anderlecht prodigy is extremely adept at holding the ball up and using his considerable frame in attacking areas, as well as having the aerial presence which saw him net nine headed goals over the course of the last two Premier League seasons.
But he also combines the lethal goalscoring record of a Solskjaer or Van Nistelrooy with the bruising qualities admired so much in players like ‘Sparky’ and Cantona.
With that in mind, he could prove to be a bridge between the strikers that have most impressively flourished at United. And for fans of the Red Devils, that’s a hugely exciting prospect.
So, could he be the spark to return the league title to Old Trafford? 10/3 says the trophy will be heading back to M16 next May.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing