Romelu Lukaku has to assert himself over competing Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rio Ferdinand believes.
Ibrahimovic is on his way back to full fitness for Man United after seven months out with a serious knee ligament injury. He came off the bench to replace Anthony Martial against both Newcastle United on Saturday, in a 4-1 win, and FC Basel on Wednesday night, in a shock 1-0 defeat.
Lukaku was shifted out to the right at the weekend, and moved there again as soon as he saw Ibrahimovic coming on against Basel, before being told to move centrally by Ander Herrera, presumably the messenger for Jose Mourinho.
His chances in the side won’t decrease, but the focus is less on him, and Ferdinand believes Lukaku has to fight with Ibrahimovic in terms of confidence and ego.
“[Ibrahimovic] doesn’t lack confidence or an ego and that’s probably part of his makeup and what makes him what he is,” Ferdinand said.
The former-United man hailed the Swedish striker, who netted 28 times last season as he dragged United to EFL Cup glory, as well as playing an important part in the UEFA Europa League campaign.
“He’s a phenomenal talent, the consistency of which he has been at the top of the game commands respect, deserves respect.
“I think he’s going to lift this squad and I think he’s going to have games and moments where he decides games and it’s about sharing that load.”
But Ibrahimovic isn’t the main man anymore, as much as it may seem like it because of his personality and reputation. Lukaku is, the £75m man signed from Everton who is United’s top goalscorer in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.
“I think Lukaku has got to bring that confidence as well,” Ferdinand said. “He’s got to fight this guy in terms of personality and ego.
“He’s got to say ‘listen, you can stand back a little bit, let me deal with this, I’m Romelu Lukaku, come for a big fee, I am capable as well’ and then share that load.”
The more the two strikers compete, the better they will perform.