Last season, the thought of dropping Romelu Lukaku would have been unthinkable for Jose Mourinho.
“For many months you are always asking why this player does not play, why this player is on the bench, why always Lukaku?,” the Manchester United boss fired at reporters towards the end of the previous campaign following a 1-0 defeat away at Brighton where the Belgian did not feature due to injury (via the Telegraph).
That alone made it abundantly clear Lukaku was Mourinho’s first-choice No.9 and things would remain that way.
However, 11 games into this new season and the 25-year-old could now be facing a fight to save his Manchester United career.
After a poor start to this term, Lukaku was dropped for the Red Devils’ 2-1 victory over Everton at Old Trafford before picking up an injury which would see him spend more time away from the pitch.
And ever since, Mourinho’s men have looked like a much better outfit. Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez, who have been filling in for the Belgium international up front, have given the team fresh impetus.
The movement provided when either one of the two have been selected to lead the line, alongside Anthony Martial’s reintroduction into the side, has rejuvenated Manchester United in attack.
It all became a bit stale and started to crumble with Lukaku’s static behaviour up front and weak link-up play.
If he cannot find a way back into the team, the former Everton man will surely regret turning down Chelsea last summer.
In contrast to a Mourinho team where the centre-forward is paramount in build-up play, in a Maurizio Sarri side, the striker’s main duty is to simply put away chances with the midfielders and wide men responsible for everything else, which is why Alvaro Morata — a player who struggles with his back towards goal — is doing so well right now.
With that in mind, Lukaku would have been thriving at Chelsea. Instead, he now faces the challenge of getting back into the first-team once he returns to full fitness and winning back his manager’s trust.