Headstrong Romelu Lukaku rises above mentally weak Manchester United attack at Leicester City

by Leo Nieboer

Manchester United inexplicably missed a litany of late chances to somehow draw with Leicester City on Saturday night.

A sumptuous Juan Mata free-kick and a red card for Daniel Amartey, forcing Leicester to come forward, gave Jose Mourinho‘s all the room in the world to find a third goal.

But they somehow didn’t, with Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all spurning glorious opportunities before the sucker-punch from Harry Maguire came seconds from the end.

One man, however, was not to blame this time around: Romelu Lukaku.

He may have lacked presence in the box, but the 24-year-old once again justified Mourinho’s claim that he was more than just a goal machine with three perfectly weighted passes to lay chances on a plate for Martial, Lingard and Mkhitaryan, only for all three to fluff their lines.

Lukaku was rightly scapegoated for missing a close-range chance against Manchester City earlier this month – a horror show that meant he only had one goal in nine Premier League games.

But the Belgian’s reaction since then has been impressive. Goals against AFC Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion have reminded everybody of the menace he can be in the box when he gets the right service.

More impressive, however, has been his attitude: one of cold, steely determination, personified by his new non-celebration celebration.

He looked as if the occasion and pressure overwhelmed him in the derby, but there has been a notable change in mentality over the last couple of weeks. That barren spell – barren in more ways than one – which reached its zenith against Pep Guardiola’s men has forced him to re-centre his focus and the change has been clear.

Even against Bristol City, there was a clear air of menace about him, and at the Kingpower Stadium he brought composure and execution to the affair while his teammates capitulated in miserable fashion.

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