In the age of single-striker systems, the centre-forward has to deliver in most games.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who Jose Mourinho thought would deliver the muscular style Didier Drogba did for him at Chelsea, was inconsistent and rightly released.
The Portuguese was also irked by the fact that United’s issue last season was not creating chances but finishing them.
Mourinho’s primary choice to fill the striker’s role was Alvara Morata, but Real Madrid played hardball with United, with the Spanish club monitoring Kylian Mbappe’s situation.
The coach didn’t want to wait any longer (as the pre-season tour to the US begins on Sunday) and turned his attention to second-choice Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian’s agent, Mino Raiola — a close friend of Mourinho — appears to have sealed the deal for a reported €85million.
Lukaku may not be as pacy as Morata, but he is a lethal finisher inside the box. There are players in this United team who can get the balls to the Belgian in the box.
Lukaku has not been at this level before, but Mourinho has the ability to enhance the Belgian’s CV.
United is also in the market for a defensive midfielder and a wide man on the left.
Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic is seen as the replacement for Michael Carrick and an upgrade on Marouane Fellaini, while Croatian Ivan Perisic’s tactical versatility is a real draw for the Portuguese.
The coach is likely to deploy Pogba in an attacking role behind Lukaku on a permanent basis so that Matic and Ander Herrera get breathing space in the congested midfield. The Frenchman can also get into the box in time for Perisic’s crosses.
Having signed Benfica’s Swedish centre-back Victor Lindelof, United’s chief executive Ed Woodward, who in his first season failed to land any of the targets David Moyes had wanted, can now work on the Matic and Perisic deals.
There is an acknowledgment of Chelsea’s desire to land Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko before allowing Matic to leave, but Perisic’s deal has been dragging on for a while.
If Mourinho gets all his pieces in time, United will resume its designs on the Premier League title.