Romelu Lukaku has insisted that he will have to “deliver more than I’ve done before” to replicate the heroics of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United next season.
The big Swede, who claimed 28 goals for the club before suffering significant knee ligament damage back in April, has been released by Man United.
And Mourinho, in response, has secured the services of Lukaku for a fee of £75m, with an official announcement set to arrive shortly after the Belgian completed his medical on Sunday.
Speaking over the weekend, the 24-year-old noted that he will fill the No.9 role in his own unique way.
“He did a wonderful job for the club,” he noted.
“He was the main guy at Manchester United, and he’s a guy I really look up to and who I learn from a lot because we share the same agent.
“But I’m Romelu Lukaku — I’m not Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“I will fill up the striker position in my way, but I know I have to work really hard and deliver more than I’ve done before.”
Mourinho inherited a squad last year that he described as “sad”. That final season under Louis van Gaal had a lobotomising effect on both players and supporters alike. Shifting Man United out of that ditch would require more than a tactical shift; an ideological overhaul was needed.
This is where Zlatan came in. The Swede’s function as No.9 was to score goals, of course, but more importantly to reinstall a sense of hunger and ruthlessness that had long deserted Old Trafford. Two trophies later, he has done his job. There is a renewed hardened spirit circulating the squad – something most apparent during the Europa League final. He may have been on the sidelines on crutches, but his unquenchable thirst for squeezing the life out of opponents was there to see.
The platform has now been set for Lukaku: the emphasis next season will be on a more direct and brutish counter-attacking approach that places the Belgian – an established Premier League threat, especially against the sides that United inexplicably failed to score against last season – at its epicentre.
So the question at hand is not necessarily how Lukaku replaces the 35-year-old, but rather how he continues the attacking project set in motion by Mourinho from day one.