Lukaku on his way to being striking great
FIVE years ago Robin van Persie was re-setting the benchmark for United strikers.
It means the target for Romelu Lukaku tomorrow against his old club Everton is a hat-trick to become the new standard.
In the Premier League era United’s imports in attack have invariably hit the ground running.
Old Trafford used to be called the graveyard for strikers once upon a time, but nearly all of the incoming names in the last two decades and more have avoided being buried in the early matches by the critics.
Back in 1995 Andrew Cole was a club record £7m buy from Newcastle. The sensational switch between rivals of the popular hitman on Tyneside meant he was under severe scrutiny.
He eased that with a matchwinning goal in his third start against Aston Villa in a 1-0 win.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a snip in 1996, signing from Molde for £1.5m. But the future Champions League final hero marked his debut with a goal as a sub but also four goals in his first five starts. An instant favourite.
Another 1999 headline maker – Teddy Sheringham – on the other hand wasn’t an immediate favourite as he made a slow impact scoring only once in his opening five games.
Dwight Yorke came in and was acclaimed from the scoring three times.
Those who grabbed four goals in their first five starts were Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha.
Van Nistelrooy and Rooney, in particular, benefited from a headline-making start. Van Nistelrooy scored twice in a 3-2 home win against Fulham in 2001 and, of course, Rooney bagged his phenomenal hat-trick at Old Trafford against Fenerbahce in the Champions League. Neither looked back. In recent seasons Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both hit the net four times in their opening five games.
But it was former Arsenal hero Van Persie who was the stand out.
He scored on his starting debut in a 3-2 win against Fulham, followed up with a stunning hat-trick at Southampton in a 3-2 win and then added to his legend with a penalty winner at Anfield against Liverpool.
In his sixth match the Dutchman scored twice against FC Cluj in the Champions League to open his account with seven goals.
It was the platform for a storming personal season that ended with the Golden Boot as Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out.
Now Lukaku has eclipsed all the striking imports, but RVP, from the modern era.
The Belgian has all the early hallmarks of becoming a United scoring great.
Now, if he could just take the ball home in his sixth start against Everton tomorrow... off after