Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho continued his defence of under-fire striker Romelu Luaku, declaring the Belgian forward as ‘untouchable’ on the eve of their UEFA Champions League clash with Benfica.
“I think Romelu is one of the players who should be untouchable in terms of respect from everyone,” the Portuguese manager said at the pre-match press conference in Manchester.
Lukaku, a £75 million summer acquisition, has hit the ground running since his move from Everton with 10 goals (all competitions) so far.
However, the fact that the 24-year-old has not scored in his past five games has left many United fans disgruntled as they feel a player of his stature should be scoring regularly.
“He’s playing very well for us – it’s not one ball that hits the post or one shot saved by the opposition goalkeeper that defines Romelu’s contribution as low or top level. It’s what he does for the team – it’s fantastic,” Mourinho insisted as he added, “For a striker, playing football is not just about scoring goals. And my job – when I feel they deserve it – is to protect my players. And for me, he is untouchable in my team and I think he should be untouchable in the support and the respect he deserves from the fans.”
Certain pundits and fans have the view that the Belgian forward is incapable of scoring against ‘big teams’ and in recent weeks, United fans exacerbated the situation by booing him during games.
And while Lukaku was unable to score against Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend, he did assist Anthony Martial to score the winner with a fine header. United ran out 1-0 winners on the night to remain within touching distance of leaders Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
And Mourinho was quick to point out that Lukaku’s contribution wasn’t just to score goals for the team but to do other things as well when asked whether he felt the burly forward had a quiet game against Spurs.
“I don’t think he was quiet at all,” Mourinho said. “Ask (Jan) Vertonghen, (Toby) Alderweireld and (Eric) Dier if they thought he was quiet – and they are some of the best central defenders in world football.
“Whether he’s scoring goals or not scoring goals is all that some people analyse. But I didn’t think he was quiet at all.”