Ole’s at the wheel
Plenty has been said about the remarkable turnaround at Manchester United since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The side keep going from strength to strength. Despite 10 first-team stars being sidelined through injury, Ole’s venture at the wheel hasn’t veered off track.
A memorable night in Paris
Arguably the finest moment of his time at the helm of the club so far was Wednesday’s dramatic win over PSG.
Solskjaer’s biggest managerial test came as United looked to overturn the deficit left by a home defeat to the French troop in February.
The Red Devils lost 2-0 in a game clearly showcasing the varying quality of the two sides. With his team truly against it, Ole calmly denied they were out for the count.
United soared through to the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League, all thanks to the predatory instincts of Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian has scored six goals in his last three games, becoming the first player to do so since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2006.
Let’s take a look at the statistics behind Lukaku’s resurgence in form.
His season so far
Lukaku’s endured a somewhat mixed bag of a season so far. Like many of his team-mates, the dreary opening months under Jose Mourinho seemed to have sapped the energy out of him.
When Solskjaer took charge, it was a chance for the Belgian to prove himself. However, a newly-prolific Marcus Rashford had earned himself the spot for United’s first-choice centre-forward.
This even meant that when Lukaku and Rashford found themselves in the same starting lineup, Lukaku was forced out to the right-wing.
However, the last three games have proven he has what it takes to still be a deadly goalscoring threat under the right tactical guise.
So far this season, Lukaku’s managed three 15 goals and one assist across all competitions, equalling 0.42 goals per game.
Meanwhile, last season he managed 21 goals and seven assists across all competitions, managing a slightly better tally of 0.49 goals per game.
Although, it’s important to again note the team’s performances overall throughout the beginning of this season and how they might have contributed to his poor output.
PSG v Manchester United
Lukaku’s performance against PSG is one that simply could not have been possible under United’s previous system.
Both of the Belgian’s goals came when he found himself pouncing on costly defensive errors. With United’s more slow and sat-back style of play while not in possession under Mourinho, the Parisian defence would more than likely have had enough time to recover.
Meanwhile, under the fast-paced front-pressing Solskjaer has implemented, the striker was able to capitalise on PSG’s costly errors.
Lukaku’s statistics for this game aren’t nearly as impressive as in previous fixtures, though this was the case for the whole team.
United saw very little of the ball (28%), instead choosing to look for a PSG mistake to then hit them on the counter. As you can see by the heat map above, Lukaku spent very little time in the opponent’s box, even having to help out at right-back to help soak up the PSG pressure.
The Belgian striker managed just two shots on goal throughout the whole game, both of which found the back of the net. Meanwhile, he also tallied a 100% dribble success rate, proving doubters of his agility wrong.
Moreover, Lukaku also managed a measly 12 completed passes, with a success rate of 66%.
Despite a PSG side severely lacking composure, Lukaku only managed to win eight out of 17 duels. Although, this could be a detriment to Thiago Silva, who stood tall at the back while his colleagues crumbled.
Manchester United v Southampton
The recent Premier League clash against Southampton saw Lukaku play much higher up the pitch than against PSG.
However, as the heat map shows, he again played predominantly on the right-wing to provide a physical threat from out wide.
The Belgian’s fired twice as many shots on goal than against PSG (four), only one of which being off-target.
Also, Lukaku’s pass success rate was a tad better in this game (68%) but considering his wide positioning, some of these were crosses (four, one successful).
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old also failed to capitalise on two big chances. But the two he did manage to capitalise on proved crucial in United earning three points.
Crystal Palace v Manchester United
Finally, the game that kicked off Lukaku’s record-breaking run was a 3-1 away win to Crystal Palace.
Selhurst Park has proven to be a tricky place for teams to earn three points this season. But two goals from Lukaku secured the win for the visitors.
As you can see by the heat map, Lukaku played mostly in the central channels, occasionally drifting out wide.
The Belgian again tallied four shots at goal, but only two were on target. He also achieved a significantly higher pass success rate than the two games that followed (76%) – most notably, no crosses.
However, Lukaku was dispossessed twice and won just four duels out of 13, highlighting the striker’s inability under pressure.
While some statistics in the last three games for Romelu Lukaku may not have been the most encouraging, the only one that matters has been: goals.
Lukaku has been clinical in front of goal, and the ways in which he’s scored show that he’s not just a threat in the six-yard box.
The partnership he’s formed with Marcus Rashford is the perfect one-two of pace and power.
It’ll be curious to see how the big Belgian continues, however, especially considering the imminent return of Anthony Martial from injury.
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