To say Romelu Lukaku hasn’t lived up to expectations this season would be a criminal understatement. In his debut term at Old Trafford, the former Everton man appeared to be the perfect candidate to step into Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shoes.
He was fast, incredibly strong, had a hammer of a left foot and a goalscorer’s instinct most Premier League strikers aren’t blessed with.
This season, however, the Belgian has been a shadow of his former self. He’s long been criticised for his dodgy first touch. But this season, in particular, it seems any semblance of technical ability has fled.
Fans have been quick to notice Lukaku is looking particularly stocky this year, suggesting this may be the reason for his sudden decline in form.
However, it’s undeniable that in the past few games where either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford have featured up top, United’s attack has looked much more fluid overall.
Meanwhile, former United star Memphis Depay has been tearing it up in Ligue 1 since his move to Lyon in January 2017.
During his 18-months at Old Trafford, Depay failed to perform to the standards befitting of the number seven shirt he wore. Though, in retrospect, the current candidate is guilty of that also.
Before his move to United, Depay dominated the Dutch league for PSV with all the qualities you’d expect from today’s breed of goalscoring wingers. Now, Depay has made the transition up top, where he has managed to steer his career back on track.
The 24-year-old has been involved in 41 goals in 52 matches for both club and country in 2018 (23 goals, 18 assists).
With United reported to have any first dibs on a buy-back clause, let’s see if the club should do whatever they can to bring Depay back to Old Trafford.
Comparison: Goalscoring Contributions
Depay has managed 0.36 goals per 90 metrics, narrowly edging out Lukaku’s 0.33. Although, in terms of shots on target per 90 metrics, Depay’s tally of 1.14 shows he’s been more clinical than Lukaku (1.14) this season.
The rest of the statistics, however, show Depay is more threatening in being able to shoot from a wider range of positions on the pitch. First, Depay has scored 0.14 goals per 90 metrics from free-kicks and 0.21 goals per 90 metrics from outside the box – both of those statistics out-performing Lukaku’s tally (0).
Comparison: Helping The Team
Both players have garnered praise for their ability outside of just scoring goals. With Lukaku, we often see him drop out wide to receive the ball, allowing his team-mates to run through the central channels.
Meanwhile, with Depay, he already has experience as a playmaker from his time on the wing.
Again, the statistics show that Depay has enjoyed a far more successful output in his contributions for his team-mates. The Dutchman has managed 0.53 assists per 90 metrics, while Lukaku hasn’t managed any.
Furthermore, Depay has managed to produce a whopping 3.88 chances created per 90 metrics compared to Lukaku’s 1.11. Also, Depay has averaged 27.41 completed passes per 90 metrics, compared to Lukaku’s 13.62.
Finally, that stats show that Depay even topples Lukaku in terms of his defensive contributions. Per 90 metrics, Depay (0.26) more than doubles Lukaku with the number of tackles won (0.1), as well as in the number of successful take-ons (1.85 compared to 0.71).
To conclude, there’s no denying that Memphis Depay has enjoyed a far more successful season so far. Lukaku hasn’t been up to scratch for United and even in his place, Marcus Rashford hasn’t been as clinical as a Manchester United number nine should be.
Jose Mourinho has chosen in recent weeks to change the setup of his front three, opting for a more quick and agile striker rather than a brute like Lukaku.
Introducing Depay into United’s front three as a striker could help breed a more eye-catching style of attack with greater fluidity. You could argue that, at times, United already play with three strikers in Martial, Rashford, and either of Sanchez or Lukaku.
The major fault in United’s attack during the introduction of a quicker front three has been Rashford struggling to find the back of the net.
Depay could possibly be the missing link if out in his place, or at the very least a great alternative/ plan b to Lukaku.