Romelu Lukaku Wants To Prove A Point Against Chelsea
Romelu Lukaku left Chelsea the first time to go back on loan to West Brom in 2012 as very much a raw, unpolished striker.
Now five years, two moves, 115 goals and a combined £118 million in transfer fees later, he still rather surprisingly regards himself as an “unfinished article”.
The Belgium international is still only 24 but Jose Mourinho and Manchester United fans will be hoping that Lukaku will not trot out the “still learning my trade” excuse for another blank against a top club tomorrow.
Lukaku is aware of his flat-track bully tag and points to the 19 times he scored against the so-called top six clubs – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and United – during his loan season with West Brom and four years with Everton.
But the fact remains his goals have been few and far between against those clubs in the last two or three seasons. At the moment he could do with a goal against any club, high or low in the table, after a six-game barren run that has applied the brakes to a flying start to his United career.
One against his former club – who wanted to take him back to Stamford Bridge in the summer only to be gazumped by United’s £90m offer – would certainly help silence some of the criticism Lukaku continues to face, despite vociferous public support from Mourinho.
“A lot of people are judging me as the finished article,” said Lukaku. “I’m 24 – you can’t judge me as the finished article yet.
“Every time I try to add something to my game that wasn’t there. I’d rather have a year where I improve, improve, improve rather than going straight to the top and then declining.”
“I know I have a lot of talent. I can do a lot of stuff, score goals with my left foot, right foot and my head. But I want to be a creator – I want to have more assists. I want to make sure when my team is having difficulties they can count on me.”
The flat-track bully tag does not appear to bother him either and he accepts that Mourinho’s traditional defensive approach in the big games does not always do him any favours.
He missed his solitary chance in the goalless draw with Liverpool and hit the post with a header against Spurs last week when he made the winner for Anthony Martial.
“People will always say this and that but my record in the Premier League is pretty good,” said Lukaku. “I always try to stay humble and look at the points I can improve. But a striker’s biggest strength is knowing that you are going to score and that you are going to miss.
“Every time I miss people over play it but a lot of strikers in the Premier League miss bigger chances than me. But with me it’s always, Rom did this, Rom did that’ and I don’t know why.”
The perceived wisdom in the summer was that Lukaku preferred to rejoin Chelsea rather than move to Manchester United because he did not get on with Mourinho, who had initially loaned and then later sold him to Everton when he started his second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2013.
But in a thinly-veiled swipe at the Londoners and their under-pressure manager Antonio Conte, Lukaku made it clear he feels working under Mourinho again and playing for United will, in the long-term, help him make the improvements he wants and land him the trophies he craves.
“I want to be a winner,” said Lukaku. “It’s not about me as an individual. I want to win trophies and I’m on the perfect stage and at the perfect age where I can take my career to the next level.
“You know that expectations are really high at this club and that is something that I relish. It’s something I learned really quickly in the training sessions here, whether it’s ball possession or finishing, you always want to be the best.
“It took me only a week to know how the habits are at United and it is something I embraced. We have young hungry players, players in the team who haven’t won the Premier League yet. We stay calm and try to improve game after game.”
Talking about perfect stages, Stamford Bridge tomorrow looks just that for Lukaku to silence some of his critics.