Manchester, Sunday @PeopleSports11
The varying twists and turns relating to Paul Pogba’s status at Manchester United may have commanded many of the headlines in recent weeks, but that has served to overshadow a vast improvement in Romelu Lukaku’s all-round game.
On Sunday, the Belgian striker scored a crucial first goal and then superbly teed up the winner for Jesse Lingard as United came from behind to secure a vital 2-1 victory over his former club Chelsea at Old Trafford on the day that Pogba returned to the starting line-up to much pomp and circumstance.
While there were many pertinent questions being asked of Lukaku’s top-level ability when he arrived in Jose Mourinho’s squad from Everton, the front man has gradually improved his all-round forward play to the point where he now provides a compelling presence in the channels and handles himself well with his back to goal.
Far from his immobile, lifeless performance at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, this was a buccaneering showing from the big front man.
His first goal against top-eight opposition all season being the pinnacle of an excellent personal display as United collected a huge three points in the context of the Champions League race.
And the Red Devils have every right to be thankful for Lukaku’s display given their horrible start which forced Mourinho to change to a 4-2-2-2 formation midway through the first half and culminated in Chelsea grabbing a 32nd-minute lead.
The goal they conceded was entirely of their own making even if Chelsea deserve high praise for the electric nature of the counter-attack which saw them go one up from a United corner.
Pogba failed to jump for a header against Victor Moses, then Scott McTominay gave up tracking Willian and allowed the Brazilian to roam free into the box where he collected Eden Hazard’s pass and fired a fierce shot beyond David de Gea.
While both De Gea and Victor Lindelof, who decided against putting in a challenge on Hazard, will accept some degree of culpability, the damage had been done already by Pogba and McTominay’s errors. -GOAL