By Scott Patterson Share Tweet Belgium goals should boost Lukaku's confidence upon Man United return
Romelu Lukaku became Belgium's all-time top scorer during the international break after his header saw his country beat Japan, following two goals against Mexico days earlier. FIFA may have contested the record, given one of the games he scored was wiped from the history books, yet Belgium have hailed him as their top goal scorer.
You can only imagine how many goals he will go on to score for the Red Devils before he hangs up his boots, given that he's only 24 now. To hold a title at such an early stage of his career is a fantastic achievement.
Of course, this is an easier feat with Belgium than in other countries. England's top goalscorer, Wayne Rooney, has 54; Argentina's, Lionel Messi, has 61; and Portugal's, Cristiano Ronaldo, has 79.
Still, to have scored 31 international goals at Lukaku's age is impressive. Rooney was two weeks away from his 27th birthday when he matched Lukaku's tally, Ronaldo was 26 and Messi was 25.
Lukaku doesn't seem to get the credit that he deserves though as, while Belgium look a decent team now, it hasn't been that way for much of his international career.
Belgium reached the quarterfinals of the last World Cup, yet didn't qualify for the previous one, when Lukaku first started playing. The same is true of their exploits in the European Championship.
Just as it says a lot about Lukaku's capabilities that he managed to score so many goals for midtable Everton, the same can be said of his goalscoring record in his early days for Belgium.
Manchester United fans can be pleased to know that eight of those goals have come since he signed for them, over just five games, indicating that he's approaching the top of his game.
Still, he has gone six starts without a goal for United so the international break likely came at a good time for him. He needed a boost in his confidence after the recent disappointments at club level.
Having made a perfect start to the season, scoring in almost every game he played, the shift in tactics for United's visit to Anfield has seemingly stalled him.
Jose Mourinho insisted he wasn't concerned that Lukaku didn't have a single touch in the opposition box against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but of course that is a worry. That's not a slight on the striker, but rather the players around him and the way Mourinho is setting up the team.
While Lukaku has provided several assists for his teammates, the best of which came with his flick on to Anthony Martial for the winner against Tottenham Hotspur, his primary role is to score goals himself. If he's not getting on the ball in the box, his chances of scoring obviously massively decrease.
Lukaku is just a few months in to his United career though and his best is still yet to come. The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is only likely to aid that progress too, given what a keen learner the Belgian striker is. He revealed a few years ago that he gets video clips sent to him of opposition defences as well as strikers he believes he can take elements of their game from.
In terms of experience, Lukaku couldn't train or play alongside a better striker than Ibrahimovic. The Swede enjoyed the role last season when passing on his expertise to Marcus Rashford and will likely relish the opportunity of doing the same with Lukaku.
Contrary to the claims put out by Mourinho that Lukaku doesn't have the support of the fan base, the Belgian is popular at Old Trafford. Goals against Liverpool or Chelsea would certainly have improved his rating among the fans but after how easily he scored in the opening months of the season, nobody is turning on him yet.
With improved confidence following his exploits for Belgium and some easier games on the horizon for United, Lukaku needs to get back to scoring ways for his club as they face the task of bridging the gap with league leaders Manchester City.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.
- Manchester United
- Romelu Lukaku