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Lukaku celebrating his goal against Crystal Palace.

Opinion: Lukaku is quietly excelling as United's no.9

As his shot sailed through the south-east London air into the top corner of Wayne Hennessy’s goal, Nemanja Matic ran to Selhurst Park’s away end with a look of delirium and wonderment etched across his face. The Serbian joined the ecstatic fans by the advertising hoardings and his United team-mates followed, but Romelu Lukaku was late.

The striker was still climbing to his feet, after dropping to his knees to pound the turf with powerful fists in celebration of a dramatic and galvanising comeback victory over Crystal Palace, who had at one point led by two clear goals after strikes from Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt.

It was an impressive show of passion, commitment and relief from the big man, who had earlier this season been unfairly questioned by pundits for not celebrating his goals with enough gusto. They tried to claim he wasn’t interested and that he might not be happy - but what a load of nonsense it was.

Sure, Romelu is a modest character in comparison to Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, who create new celebrations for almost every goal, but do not confuse his behaviour for apathy. This is a man who is loving life at United, has ambitions of big success and is quietly excelling in his debut campaign.

There is also the fact Lukaku has hit double figures in the goal charts for six straight seasons and it’s ultimately his job to put the ball in the net, so he may not view each individual finish as a big deal. That is not the romantic view of football, but not every occasion requires vein-bursting passion.

I don’t know how you operate in your own workplace, but I don’t strut around the office, pointing to the back of my shirt, giving it large, after every well-received article. Admittedly, those are much fewer and further between than Lukaku’s goals, so if you like this read, then I can’t make any promises.

Goals: Crystal Palace 2 United 3Video

Lukaku registered his 24th goal in all competitions on Monday night and that is two fewer than Zlatan Ibrahimovic had managed at this same stage of last season, when the Swede was deemed a runaway success in English football. Yet, for some reason, Red Rom isn’t receiving the same credit and is repeatedly the focus of questions from those who clearly don’t watch him enough.

They say he doesn’t move enough or contribute to the team, yet he is consistently impressing with his improving all-round play, especially of late, and currently has six Premier League assists to his name, which include the pinpoint cross from which Jesse Lingard headed the winner against Chelsea this month.

That fixture against his former club brings us to the suggestion he isn't influencing big games, which he muted somewhat with his goal and Man-of-the-Match performance against Antonio Conte’s Blues at Old Trafford recently. Sure, there is still work to do on those biggest stages, but let’s have it right: the accusation is unfair.
Nevertheless, this is the life that a Manchester United no.9 must live as the scrutiny on the club is tenfold compared to Premier League rivals, where contemporaries continually slip under the radar.

Lukaku knows this and fully embraces the spotlight, as he conveyed during an interview last weekend when he spoke to reporters at Old Trafford about his attitude to the attention at United.

“You expect a bit more respect but it's the situation we're in,”
Rom said.
“I don't listen to it. I just want to improve and show the people what I can do on the pitch. I'm playing for the biggest club in the world. It's something that I wanted, but it's not only that, I just want to win trophies.”

Lukaku embracing the expectations article

"People expect 20 goals from me," says Rom. "I'm playing for the biggest club in the world and it's something I wanted."

Such a positive perspective from a 24-year-old should be celebrated and, with 24 goals under his belt this season, I wouldn’t bet against the Belgium international topping the 30-mark in the coming weeks. 

Whether he celebrates with silent satisfaction, fist-pumping passion or something inbetween, I honestly don’t care. As long as Romelu Lukaku continues his form up front for United, then I’ll be happy. 

The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.