August 14, 2017
Goals were hard to come by for Manchester United last season. 54 from 591 shots equates to a goal every 11 attempts, and of the 210 on target, it is a goal every four. It is form that more than deserved the position in the table it garnered and became a real concern for fans of United and a real point of ridicule for fans of everyone else. It was the obvious aspect of the game Mourinho needed to improve in the summer transfer window, and with four goals against West Ham on Sunday afternoon it appears that he has done exactly that in the shape of one man – Romelu Lukaku.
Speaking post match on Sky Sports, Thierry Henry waxed lyrical about the Belgian striker who was a PaZabaletaalea challenge away from a debut hat-trick in front of his new home fans. It was the perfect way to announce himself onto the scene and made the trip well worth the entrance fee for the supporters as Lukaku exhibited the full array of his best attributes in scoring his two goals. Dominance in the air, lightning pace and the ability to be ruthless inside the 18-yard box are all things that were so sorely missed by Jose Mourinho’s impotent attack in 2016/17.
It isn’t just Lukaku that has improved the look (it is just the look after 1 game) of the business end of the pitch. The new-found physicality of Marcus Rashford to match his scary pace and direct running is the perfect tool to compliment Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks up for the fight and is capable of creating moments for hinself and his team mates, Anthony Martial seems more content with life and – when given the opportunity – can contribute heavily to the goal tally with his cold ruthlessness and the final part of the puzzle in an attacking sense is Paul Pogba, who strutted around the Old Trafford turf today like he was 10 levels above the standard, he was untouchable and his eye for the sublime can only serve the side.
There are areas that must be improved, and Henry alluded to where Lukaku must sharpen up. Losing possession 18 times is a touch on the heavy side, but it was perhaps more a case of his team mates not quite being on his wavelength yet than anything else. At least it wasn’t his first touch. Marcus Rashford needs to become more clinical, he was a lick of paint short of a goal Sunday but it has been an issues in the past. Anthony Martial needs to maintain his happiness (though the manager must help with more game time) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has to work on his first touch to make himself the more rounded individual (no jokes please).
It is only 90 minutes old, but it does seem to have improved in the attacking respect. Four goals all scored in a different way from the last and with some sumptuous football on display in between has given the season that rosy, optimistic glow that has been missed on opening day the last few years. We aren’t to go too far with it, but allowing time to appreciate the new vibrant, goal loving Manchester United is a must as night falls on the first weekend of the 2017/18 slog. And who knows, maybe it isn’t too much to dream of, maybe it can all come together nicely, maybe the dry spell can be stopped.