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22nd Feb 2018

Paul Scholes says what needs to be said about Romelu Lukaku

He's not wrong

Robert Redmond

Manchester United had a big match away to tricky opponents on Wednesday night, so that meant three things.

Firstly, the Champions League tie with Sevilla of course finished goalless, because Jose Mourinho rarely finds a way to win a big game. Secondly, David de Gea saved United, because he’s a brilliant goalkeeper and for all the talk of the team being “organised” and “difficult to beat”, they actually concede big chances and would lose a lot more were it not for their ‘keeper.

And finally, United playing away from home in a big match meant Lukaku would struggle, as has happened in almost every big game the Belgian striker has featured in for the club.

Lukaku failed to make any impact in the match. Some United fans might try defend his performance, and argue that he was isolated in Mourinho’s tactical plan and received little service.

He may have been isolated at times, but he made nothing of the service he did get. Lukaku had 38 touches in the match, and lost the ball 18 times. So, almost 50 percent of his touches resulted in him surrendering possession. If someone in a Sunday League game lost the ball so much, there’d be questions asked. Lukaku cost United £75m.

Some United fans might also argue that Lukaku is only 24, and there’s time for him to improve his hold-up play. However, if the average professional football career lasts from 18 to 36, then the United striker is one-third of the way through his career, and can no-longer be considered a young player. At which point, he should be able to hold the ball up.

Yet, Wednesday’s dire draw with Sevilla showed that this is a serious deficiency in his game, and his finishing wasn’t much better on the night.

Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand were on BT Sport’s coverage of the game, and sounded deeply unimpressed with what they had witnessed from the former Everton and Chelsea striker. The former United players criticised his inability to hold the ball up and help his team get up the pitch.

“Lukaku has to do better when you are playing counter-attacking football,” Scholes said.

“He was so weak, he has to be strong and get hold of the ball and bring players in. Most of the time he was giving it away.”

“It is so frustrating. He has all the tools and everything to scare a defender, he is big, strong, quick,” Ferdinand said.

“He has scored a lot of goals but the big games, big nights, big moments, he needs to produce. [He had] 38 touches and 18 times he gave it away and if you are trying to produce a counter-attacking performance the ball has to stick. With Lukaku in the team at the moment, the ball doesn’t stick so the counter-attack doesn’t happen.”

You can watch them discuss United’s performance here: