Put on the spot, Jose insists he's spot on

Daley Blind scoring United's second goal from the penalty spot. Romelu Lukaku's goal run has dried up and the manager's decision not to let the "untouchable" take the spot kick would not have improved his confidence.
Daley Blind scoring United's second goal from the penalty spot. Romelu Lukaku's goal run has dried up and the manager's decision not to let the "untouchable" take the spot kick would not have improved his confidence.PHOTO: REUTERS

With Martial replaced, United boss picks Blind to take penalty instead of Lukaku

LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho defended his decision not to allow misfiring Romelu Lukaku to take a penalty during his side's 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica .

The striker made a blistering start to his United career after joining from Everton, scoring 11 goals in his first 10 games, but has now gone six matches without finding the net.

Mourinho made a point of defending Lukaku after Saturday's 1-0 win over Tottenham and claimed the £75 million (S$135.4 million) summer signing should be "untouchable" from fans' criticism.

When United were awarded a second half penalty against Benfica on Tuesday, it seemed a good opportunity for Lukaku to get his first goal since September, ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash against Chelsea. Yet Mourinho instructed Daley Blind to take it.

Anthony Martial, who missed a first half penalty, had been substituted when Marcus Rashford won the second spot kick.

"I don't understand why everyone asks me the same (question)," he said when asked about his decision in his post-match press conference at Old Trafford.

"I'm paid to take decisions, good or bad. In the first half, the decision was bad because the player I chose to take the penalty (Martial) missed. In the second half I made another decision and I don't see the drama.

"The penalty taker for this match was Martial. He was not even on the pitch when the second one was (awarded)... The players respected my decision. That's it, end of story."

Martial's 15th minute penalty was turned behind by Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar after Douglas had been penalised for handball.

But United took the lead when Nemanja Matic's strike hit the post and bounced into the net off Svilar's arm. Blind settled matters in the 78th minute by drilling his spot kick down the middle of the goal.

Mourinho had reacted to Saturday's win over Tottenham with a shushing gesture. And after Blind scored he made another hand gesture which has been interpreted by some as an action directed at fans and pundits who have been critical of the side's style of play in recent games. Asked to explain it, he replied: "I don't remember."

United's fourth successive Group A victory left them six points clear on 12 points, but CSKA Moscow's 2-1 win at Basel means Mourinho's men require one point from their last two fixtures to rubber-stamp a last 16 berth.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2017, with the headline 'Put on the spot, Jose insists he's spot on'. Print Edition | Subscribe