Romelu Lukaku has made note of how Jose Mourinho has chosen him to be his “sergeant on the pitch” at Manchester United this season.
The Belgian claimed his 23rd goal for the club during Man United’s 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Monday night, firing home through a host of bodies to bring the visitors level.
Supporters haven’t always been complimentary of the 24-year-old but recently expressed their admiration for the way Lukaku passionately celebrated winning goals against Chelsea and Palace.
And Lukaku, speaking to Sky Sports about his role at United, claimed that Mourinho recognises him as the mouthpiece of his side’s work rate on the pitch.
“I think the manager in his mind thinks that I’m like his sergeant on the pitch, and that’s strange for a striker because it’s usually the midfielders,” he said.
“He has been really good but I think he knows I have that soldier mentality.
“I think the work rate I am delivering to the team is a lot and he knows he can come to me whenever. I will always put the team first ahead of myself and that’s something I told him, I said ‘the team is the most important thing’.”
There are strikers who are technically superior to Lukaku, but you would struggle to find someone with a better attitude on the pitch – someone whose dedication to the cause and obsession with doing anything to win aligns more closely with that of Mourinho.
And it is no coincidence whatsoever that United have scored more goals, won more games, and sustained their place higher in the table this season with Lukaku at the masthead of attack.
He is a player capable of hauling his teammates up the pitch through sheer force of will, chasing down anything and everything, ensuring that opposition centre-backs know that they are in a game. And we haven’t even mentioned his truly remarkable goalscoring record yet.
From the first whistle to the last, he leaves absolutely everything on the pitch. And that, really, embodies the Mourinho ethic more than anything else.