Paul Merson explains why Romelu Lukaku could struggle following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return

by Leo Nieboer

Former Arsenal winger Paul Merson believes that Romelu Lukaku could suffer at Manchester United following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to action over the next couple of months.

Jose Mourinho recently noted that the Swede, who claimed 27 goals last season, could return to action at Old Trafford before the turn of the year.

Lukaku enjoyed a scintillating start to life at Man United, claiming 11 goals in his opening ten games, but has now gone six games without a goal.

And Merson, speaking on Sky Sports, noted that the Belgian’s confidence could further diminish following Zlatan’s return.

“If Zlatan Ibrahimovic was there, he wouldn’t be untouchable,” he said. “It would be very interesting as the crowd would be roaring for Ibrahimovic, which would put pressure on Mourinho and then Lukaku might go into his shell.”

“He’s a confidence player – you need to put your arm around him. You don’t want to be having a go at him. That’s why Mourinho is telling him he’s untouchable.”

This argument from Merson would make sense if Mourinho did measure Lukaku’s talent and success at Old Trafford solely by how many goals he scores.

But he doesn’t. Mourinho has told us this on several occasions. The 24-year-old may have started to draw blanks but he continues to play an important part in attacking movements, giving the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial greater leverage to pour forward at pace through his aptitude for bursting through the middle.

And you expect Mourinho to keep Lukaku as ‘Plan A’, so to speak, and call on Zlatan’s services almost intuitively – at a time where his presence suddenly feels necessary in a pressurised moment, or simply when United need a different kind of threat at the masthead of attack.

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