Jose Mourinho has admitted that Romelu Lukaku is ‘tired’ following an accumulation of games but stressed that he couldn’t rest him for the clash with Southampton on Saturday.
The Belgian has started every game in the Premier League and Champions League this season, missing out on the starting XI only in Carabao Cup games against Burton Albion, Swansea City and Bristol.
And the fatigue from such a relentless stream of games was there to see during the 2-2 draw with Burnley on Boxing Day, with the Belgian seemingly last to every ball into the box.
But Mourinho, speaking at a press conference ahead of the meeting with Southampton, noted that he couldn’t rest the 24-year-old, adding that the fight and character shown from him in recent weeks has been admirable.
Strong defence of @RomeluLukaku9 from Jose. Wants to give him a rest but can't: "The boy is tired. He is physically a monster but not a machine and he is feeling it."
— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) December 29, 2017
The boss on Romelu Lukaku: “Now, it is 20 [consecutive] matches in the Premier League [for him]. I think for a striker, for any player, it’s absolutely incredible. The guy is fantastic for me and the team, and he gives absolutely everything, I have no criticisms.” #MUFC pic.twitter.com/dcBlPjsX54
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 29, 2017
Perhaps we have underestimated just how much of an impact playing so many games in a row, without any real break, can have – especially for a player who can still be considered young at 24.
The draw with Burnley revealed in glowing terms that Lukaku needs a rest. A proper one. And the notion that he can’t sit out against the Saints makes no sense at all given that Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have both shown themselves to be capable in that role.