Ahead of today’s UEFA Champions League clash between Manchester United and Benfica, coach Jose Mourinho made a request from his team and supporters.
Image: Romelu Lukaku and Jose Mourinho (Source: Premium Times)
United boss called on all Old Trafford faithfuls to rally round his Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been outstanding since the beginning of this 2017-18 season. The popular No. 9 has already found the net 11 times contrary to earlier speculations that his decision to ignore offers from former team Chelsea would be a huge mistake.
Mourinho made the call after United‘s lucky win against Tottenham Hotspur, and reiterated the point ahead of their Champions League clash today 31 October.
Speaking in an interview with MUTV, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach said, ‘I have huge respect for our numerous fans. They have a right to express themselves the way they feel, but it is my duty as a coach to protect my players.’
The 54-year-old tactician continued, ‘Lukaku is a star, one of those players who should command our respect. He is sacrificing so much for the team’s success…Hitting the post once, twice or thrice, and having a shot saved by a vigilant goalkeeper doesn’t mean the striker isn’t effective. His performance has always been above average.
‘He is untouchable and must be untouchable…The fans should know this by heart.’
Lukaku made a few attempts at goal but his remarkable header which hit the post earlier in the game, nearly tore United supporters apart. However, the Belgium international player found Anthony Martial with a lovely flick later in the game. The Frenchman powered a sloppy shot from the assist and grabbed United’s winner for the day.
Mourinho was asked about Lukaku‘s role and general performance in the match against Spurs, and the Portuguese coach told newsmen to squash suggestions that his striker was sluggish.
‘No, that’s not true,’ he said, ‘Lukaku was very active against three world class defenders.’
He continued, ‘Go inquire from Vertonghen, Dier and Alderweireld…These are three of the best central defenders assembled in one place. They’ll testify of their experiences.
‘It’s unfair that people judge him [Lukaku] with goals, but it shouldn’t be so. I repeat, he is worth more than what they think of him. He deserves everyone’s respect.’
Lukaku settled down quickly at Old Trafford unlike some of his predecessors who arrived with high hopes and huge price tags but ended up in frustration. He has exhibited a high level of confidence despite criticisms from over-demanding supporters. Yet, Mourinho‘s admiration is expected to serve as a morale-booster in the game against Benfica.
The 24-year-old striker joined Anderlect in 2006, the same year he made his professional debut at the age of 16. By 2009-10 he won the Belgian championship with the team and was crowned the league’s highest goal scorer. In 2011, more exploits earned him the Belgian Ebony Shoe before Chelsea made a request for his services.
Lukaku has so far played for West Bromwich Albion and Everton before Manchester United.