Football Expert @ThierryHenry
Romelu Lukaku reveals all in exclusive interview with Thierry Henry
Belgian discusses Man Utd adaptation, criticism, Rashford relationship, Ibrahimovic's influence and trip to Chelsea
Last Updated: 04/11/17 8:05pm
Ahead of Manchester United's trip to champions Chelsea on Nissan Super Sunday, Thierry Henry travelled to Old Trafford for a catch-up with Romelu Lukaku.
As well as looking ahead to the trip to Stamford Bridge, which is live on Sky Sports Premier League, Henry quizzed the striker on life at United following his big-money summer move from Everton.
Lukaku's burgeoning relationship with Marcus Rashford, and the influence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, were also on the agenda, while the Belgian issued a staunch response to his recent critics.
For more on that and much more, here's a full transcript of when Henry met Lukaku...
HENRY: Rom, we are at the Theatre of Dreams, how does it feel to step on that field wearing the Manchester United jersey?
LUKAKU: It feels great, goosebumps. I remember the first game when I came on against West Ham it felt great. You feel like you play at a ground where a lot of legends of the game made their mark. As a team we want to achieve the highest possible. We are on the right path right now and I am really enjoying playing for this club.
HENRY: How happy are you with the beginning of the season so far?
LUKAKU: The stats are good. We started the season really well, we played at a high tempo, scored a lot of goals and were good both defensively and offensively. Then sometimes some performances were not at the same tempo. We always find a way to win the game but a season is a lot of ups and downs. The most important thing is to keep the consistency of winning games. We dropped points against Stoke and Huddersfield, Huddersfield was really disappointing. We did not perform like we have to perform. We have to move on quickly from that and we did. Now it is up to us to keep performing and chase Man City.
HENRY: You beat Tottenham here and there was some negative press. The same after Benfica. How do you deal with it?
LUKAKU: We had negative press from the start of the season. We were beating teams 4-0, 4-0, 4-0 but people were saying, 'We didn't play the big teams yet, we didn't do this or that yet'. The reality is we keep performing. We cannot put our focus on what happens outside, we have to focus on ourselves and stick to the task. We have to play attractive football, score goals and win games. That's our task. What happens outside could create pressure between team-mates, maybe the atmosphere would not be good. The atmosphere in our team is great, we have a lot of young, hungry players and experienced players who have a young mind as well, so everybody is in a groove right now. We work hard in training and win the game on Saturday. That's something we have to build on. As long as we do that I don't think we should focus on what the outside world is saying.
HENRY: Can you talk to us about your relationship with Marcus Rashford?
LUKAKU: I see a lot of qualities in him that can help me and I think I have a lot of qualities that can help him. After the game against Swansea he came to my house with his brother, we were having dinner and he asked, 'What do you expect from us this season?' For me it is easy. I said to him if you eat, I eat. If you score a goal I know there will be space for me to create or score myself. If I score I know there will be space for you. That's how the mentality has to be. I'm not a selfish guy.
The most important thing is the team. I came here to win the Premier League, to win trophies. I didn't come here to be an individual player. I came here to help you and the team achieve something. Whenever I am in a situation and I'm not 100 per cent it will be a goal, I want you to be there so I can give you the pass and score. Then it has to be the same for you because at the end of the day it's a team. As soon as I told him that he went scoring every game, in training I would watch his finishing, his skills, how he runs through players. I try to take stuff from that but we keep it really natural. We talk a lot but we don't over-talk about football. We talk about life, music, we play video games. He lives 100 yards away from me so it makes it easy. To have a guy like that - willing to be competitive but also with a leadership mentality - it helps the team.
HENRY: I know you don't like to talk about this. Your style of play - do you think people say the glass is half empty with you? People concentrate on what you cannot do versus what you can do?
LUKAKU: I am just focused on improving every year. Every time I try to add something to my game that wasn't there. I feel a lot of people working in the media don't know how much of a student of the game I am. They don't know that if we play on a Saturday, the first thing I do when I get home is watch the other games, watch the other leagues. The first thing I do on a Sunday is five hours in front of the TV watching football, football, football. I watch my games back and pick out what didn't go right and try to make sure it goes well next time. I think a lot of people are judging me as the finished article but I am 24, you cannot judge me as the finished article. I would rather have a career where I improve year after year than go to the top and then decline. There are a lot of strikers that reached the top before 25 but after 25 they went down.
I think a lot of people are judging me as the finished article but I am 24, you cannot judge me as the finished article. I would rather have a career where I improve year after year than go to the top and then decline
There are a lot of strikers that you see get better year after year - like you when you came to Arsenal. I really want to be a guy that consistently improves and works. That's the only way I know. I know I have a lot of talent and can score goals with my left foot, right foot or head. But I want to be a creator, I want more assists, I want to make sure when my team is in difficulty they can count on me. At the end of the day, I want to be a winner. I am on the perfect stage and at the perfect age where I take my career to the next level. The process is going to come with ups and downs and I accept that. I know football is not up, up, up. If you look at my stats and the way I perform, I think year after year I have become better. That's something I want to keep going. I accept criticism from the manager, from you, from the Belgium manager, critics can only help me become a better player.
HENRY: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in town - this is another guy you can learn from and take from. Are you going to ask him about the game?
LUKAKU: It already happened. We have the same agent so the relationship is easier. After I signed it happened. When I ask him something he is always there for me. I stay late sometimes and he is always there. We talk at the physio table, I ask him about his experiences at Juventus and Inter Milan. I ask him about the dressing room because he played in teams with big personalities. How did he cope with it? He made the step to Juventus at 23. I'm 24, so it's only one year difference. I asked him about how he adapted.
When he joined Juve, Alessandro Del Piero went out of the team - you are talking about Del Piero - as a young kid I saw that and I had the chance to ask him how he coped with it. He really helps me and for us, as a team, it really helps to have him back. He is a player with a lot of qualities. He scores goals, he can be a playmaker as well, so I am relishing the challenge of him being in the team and for him to push us to the next level. When he comes back it is going to be another boost.
HENRY: You are a competitor - how important is this Chelsea game? For a lot of reasons, for people talking about your record against big teams, the magnitude of the game…
LUKAKU: I made a decision in the summer that I felt Old Trafford was the stage for me. Playing under Jose Mourinho was my destiny. Since I was 11, I knew when he was manager at Porto, I knew this guy had something. I followed his career, the way his teams played, and as a young kid I was already being busy with tactics. I was like this is the guy that might give me something. So it was Manchester United, it was Jose Mourinho. I could not say no. I felt it was the best opportunity for me. For us as a team it will be an important game because we want to keep going, to keep winning, to play without fear, to go forward and score goals. That's what the fans want to see and that's the type of team we can be. We have a lot of pace, skill and power in our team and then when we need to fight we can fight. We will go there and try to perform. On my record against the big teams, I think now it is different.
When I used to be at Everton - and no disrespect to Everton, the team that nurtured me - we were always playing not to lose against the big teams. As a striker, I would play sometimes with two defensive midfielders as wingers. There would be no service, everybody would be thinking about closing back and not conceding first. I would stay on the holding midfielder and we would defend with nine. Here it is different, you play to win and you get more service. The pressure is bigger but it is something I wanted. Now we go to Chelsea and we go for a win. That's a good feeling. Sometimes we would go to Chelsea and be happy with a draw and I would be fuming because I wanted to win. I am a team player so I never complained about it but people have to know that was my situation. Like I said it is different at United, against Tottenham we played with two up front and we went to attack. I got the assist for the goal so I'm happy at the end of the day, we got the three points. We are going to prepare ourselves well for the game, it is not going to be easy because Antonio Conte tactically is a mastermind. It will be a nice challenge for us.
HENRY: And finally, Rom. Can you win the Golden Boot?
LUKAKU: Why are you asking me that? I'll say we can win the league and whatever happens, happens. This is what I have learned from the past. In football, everybody looks at the individual but I want titles. At this club I want titles. The Golden Boot would be the cherry on the cake. I have wanted the Premier League trophy since I was six years old. Now I'm here at the team where I can challenge every year. I play football for trophies, I don't want the individual recognition, it's a bonus when you get it. If you score 30 league goals and you are not the top scorer but you win the league, that's great. I am not fighting with any individual, I am competing with my team against other teams.
Watch Chelsea v Manchester United live on Nissan Super Sunday from 4.15pm on Sky Sports Premier League.