Lukaku's industry offsets dry spell

Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku reacts during an English Premier League football match, on Nov 25.
Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku reacts during an English Premier League football match, on Nov 25. PHOTO: AFP

Striker escapes ban for violent conduct, Mourinho set to keep faith with him for trip to Watford

LONDON • There is no pressure on Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku to rediscover his goal-scoring form as the Belgian's relentless work rate makes up for it, manager Jose Mourinho has said.

Lukaku, who netted 11 goals in his first 10 United games following his move from Everton in the close season, disappointed on Saturday when United laboured to a 1-0 home league win over Brighton.

The 24-year-old has scored just once in his last 10 games but Mourinho believes he offers much more than goals on the pitch, inspiring his team-mates to follow his lead and work harder.

"In the last minute, he (Lukaku) was fighting and running back like he was in the first minute, so I think it is also a mentality question," Mourinho told reporters.

"The way Romelu wins the corner for the goal, the way Romelu ends the game - making tackles in the left-back position - that is the mentality I want.

"Some guys are capable to go into the limits of their efforts and some other guys even with a lot of talent, they don't manage to do that. So Romelu, for me, (is) fantastic. Didn't score, I don't care."

Mourinho's side, currently second in the league, remain eight points behind leaders Manchester City, who are unbeaten with 37 points after 13 matches.

United next visit Watford today, who are eighth in the league table after an impressive 3-0 win at Newcastle on Saturday.

Despite getting a vote of confidence from Mourinho, Lukaku will still be hoping to find his scoring boots sooner than later.

Fortunately for him, he will get another chance today, should he play against Watford.

According to BBC Sport, the Football Association decided not to slap a three-match violent conduct ban on him yesterday after reviewing video footage of him appearing to kick out at Brighton defender Gaetan Bong on Saturday.

For Watford, the win at Newcastle was their biggest away victory in the top flight since a 5-1 success at Chelsea in May 1986.

Though Watford were trounced 6-0 by City in September, they have doled out some bloody noses on their home turf, holding Liverpool to a 3-3 draw in their first game and beating Arsenal 2-1 last month.

Manager Marco Silva continues to be linked with the managerial vacancy at Everton, having won plenty of admirers during his brief stint with Hull last season and his fledgling tenure at Watford.

Watford also face a testing run of games that includes a visit from Tottenham and a trip to fellow overachievers Burnley, but Silva has only eyes for United for now.

"We will see what will happen," said the Portuguese.

"We are not thinking about the next two or three games, we are thinking about the next.

"We will do our best to get a good result at home in front of our fans. It will be a tough game for us but we can play with confidence."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Lukaku's industry offsets dry spell'. Print Edition | Subscribe