Romelu Lukaku pledged to use an unhappy season at Manchester United to come back stronger after two goals in Belgium’s 3-0 European qualifying victory over Scotland on Tuesday reminded club coaches what he is capable of.
Belgian fans staged a display of affection for “Big Rom” before kick-off, unveiling giant banners reading “26 years old, already a legend”, prompting coach Roberto Martinez to call it a “love” that made the side unique in Europe.
Lukaku scored in the 45th and 57th minutes to ensure Belgium remained unbeaten in Group I after four games and said he had been determined to rectify a season in Manchester that saw him lose his place and face transfer talk.
“I’ve had a difficult season at club level,” he said. “I lost my place and haven’t played much.
“But that is a phase in my career and it will help me for the next step.”
He waved away a question about a reported possible move to Inter Milan with no comment.
Former Wigan Athletic and Everton manager Martinez praised Lukaku’s consistency in front of goal over the past three years, which aided Belgium’s third-place finish at last year’s World Cup and has continued with three goals in their last two games.
“I just feel sometimes a bit sad when I don’t see Rom enjoying his football,” Martinez said.
“When he enjoys his football he’s a lethal goalscorer.”
Lukaku also won an endorsement from Scotland coach Steve Clarke, who coached him as a youngster at West Bromwich Albion.
“I’ve just had a big cuddle with him in the tunnel. He apologised for scoring,” Clarke joked before predicting greater heights for him.
“He wants to get better and better. He wants to keep challenging himself.
“When you’re a top player and you want to keep getting better things can only look up.”