Romelu Lukaku has earned the nickname “Rocky” from his Manchester United teammates for his exceptional work ethic since joining the club last summer.
The Belgian has enjoyed an excellent opening campaign, claiming 27 goals and earning the title of “my sergeant on the pitch” from Jose Mourinho in the process for the way he combatively leads the line for Man United.
He has been in Belgium nursing an injury to his ankle sustained against Arsenal, adding recently that he was recovering faster than expected.
A club source has told the Sun that Lukaku – who Alexis Sanchez calls ‘Jiren’, referring to a powerful fighter in Dragon Ball Z – has earned the nickname ‘Rocky’ from the famous Sylvester Stallone film for the way he applies himself in training.
“He has been absolutely smashing training and wants to be peak for the World Cup and Belgium,” he said.
“He’s one of the first in for the warm-up on the bikes and is then hitting the gym for an hour after normal training has finished. They say he is more ripped than normal at present and knows he isn’t going to have a full pre-season this summer.
“He is trying to kill two birds with one stone. Jose is obviously loving it, as it is setting a firm message out to the others. He is is full on ‘Rocky’ training mode and seems to be preparing more for 12 rounds of boxing than a game of football.”
Mourinho has often cited the work ethic of Lukaku and hit out at others for not matching the same level of application this season. It is a harsh observation – but one you find it hard to agree with.
Many players have flittered and fluctuated out of contention, but Lukaku has been an unyielding presence, always ruthlessly trying to improve various aspects to his game with every week that passes.
And the effects have been tangible: his linkup play with teammates has quickened, while his holding of the ball up top has significantly matured. The goals have come naturally. What matters most to Mourinho is that Lukaku takes genuine responsibility on the pitch. You won’t ever catch him not giving absolutely everything on the pitch, and that is why supporters love him.