We nearly got Morata.
It wasn’t supposed to be Red Rom. Romelu Lukaku, Drogba’s heir apparent, the childhood Chelsea fan, the star of a viral video of him walking around Stamford Bridge in 2010. Romelu Lukaku was supposed to go to Chelsea last summer. He was supposed to spearhead the new Conte project and help them defend their Premier League title.
Manchester United were supposed to sign Alvaro Morata instead.
And then the video of Lukaku and Pogba got released, where Romelu, cool as you like, walks up to Paul near a swimming pool and says, “See you tomorrow, to the training.”
Paul gets all confused, “See you where?”
And then Romelu repeats, “Tomorrow, to the training.”
When it all clicks in Pogba’s mind, that him and Lukaku will be teammates as well as summer holiday buddies, he takes off his baseball cap and does a special handshake. Pogba dances because he’s got his friend on the team. For large parts of this season, United fans danced because they had a versatile, dynamic number nine again.
Look at the numbers: 27 goals in his debut Manchester United season, 16 of them in the league. Solid stuff. Then go deeper. Lukaku got nine assists for United and at times legitimately looked like the side’s best crossing option from the right. Remember his age. Lukaku is 25 years old. 25 years old. He was five years old when France ‘98 happened and he’s already the top goalscorer in Belgian national team history. This is only the beginning.
Just remember, we nearly got Alvaro Morata instead.
Not that Morata isn’t a good striker. He’s young and he’s talented and he had some troubles adjusting to his first season as a number one striker in a foreign land. He’s good with his head and if it wasn’t for a back injury, he probably could have had a better season, he certainly gave United enough trouble in November.
But he’s not Red Rom. He’s not Paul Pogba’s best mate scoring 11 goals in his first 10 games. He’s not Red Rom going BALLISTIC when Nemanja Matić scored the winner against Crystal Palace in March or when Jesse Lingard did the same against Chelsea the month before. He’s not Red Rom becoming the youngest foreign player to get 100 Premier League goals.
Just before Belgium started their World Cup campaign this summer, Lukaku penned a piece for The Player’s Tribune. In it, he said: “Let me tell you something — every game I ever played was a Final. When I played in the park, it was a Final. When I played during break in kindergarten, it was a Final. I’m dead-ass serious. I used to try to tear the cover off the ball every time I shot it. Full power. We weren’t hitting R1, bro. No finesse shot. I didn’t have the new FIFA. I didn’t have a Playstation. I wasn’t playing around. I was trying to kill you.”
There’s this version of Manchester United that appears in a player from time to time. Manchester United at its best wants to be intrepid, handsome, good natured and blessed with grace under pressure. Manchester United at its most enthralling is a team packed full players who are young, tricksy, talented and well meaning. United at its best is Paul Pogba’s brace against City on April 7th. Jesse Lingard hitting a milly rock at the Emirates. Marcus Rashford smiling and jumping in to the crowd after tearing Liverpool asunder.
It is a player like Romelu Lukaku inheriting the legendary number nine shirt, of Charlton, Cole and McClair, and and absolutely not shirking it.
We nearly got Morata. Now we have Red Rom. Playing every game like it was a final. Scoring the opening goal of United’s season and immediately pointing to the badge like he always belonged. Whipping crosses in for Lingard, Martial and Rashford to thrive from. Standing arms outstretched in Old Trafford in celebration while Pogba and the rest of the boys catch up.
Oh there’s work to be done for sure. 20 goals in the league would be nice. An improved first touch and finishing would be lovely as we try and mount a Champions League campaign too. But the thing is, when you know there’s work to be done, is there a striker in the league more up for it than Romelu Lukaku? More up for it than the kid who grew up watching his mum mixing milk with water and vowed to become a footballer at 16 years of age? More up for it than the kid who went to a club with Jose Mourinho at the helm and went “bring it on”.
He’s Red Rom and he’s up for it. He’s Red Rom and he’s ours.
This article was taken from the RoM charity season preview.