Jose Mourinho has heaped praise on Romelu Lukaku for his “phenomenal attitude” at Manchester United, pointing out how the Belgian willingly stepped into the centre back role following Nemanja Matic’s goal against Crystal Palace.
Lukaku has played a fundamental role in recent comeback wins against Chelsea and Crystal Palace, scoring the equaliser in both games and taking his season tally to 23 goals in the process.
Along with his goals, the 24-year-old has impressed supporters with an indefatigable work rate and raw passion for the cause in what were crucial wins for Man United.
And Mourinho, speaking ahead of Man United’s clash with Liverpool, was quick to emphasise Lukaku’s importance to his side’s overall attitude going forward.
“I had a laugh with him. That’s fine. He’s an important guy for me, one of the guys that I trust, that
I love the attitude, I love the character,” he said.
“Against Crystal Palace, there was nothing that happened after our third goal but I told him central defender, so after the third goal he was playing central defender in a back five with Smalling and Lindelof because I couldn’t make any more changes. So when I say to the striker go there and do a job for me he is a sergeant.
“He is a guy you can trust, his attitude is phenomenal. That is why I always thought and told you many times for me it’s not just about the goals he scored but what he brings to the team and he brings to the team that exact spirit.”
For Mourinho, a good goalscorer is never enough to fill his criteria for the No.9 role. This is a position, after all, that defines the shape and feel of United’s attack, and the Belgian’s almost religious selfishness and abounding enthusiasm to give absolutely everything provides the ideal reference point for the rest of United’s attack.
He has emphasised from the start that Lukaku’s performance cannot be measured by goals alone. And while 23 goals is a superb total at this point of the season, the improvement in United’s overall ruthlessness in front of goal as a collective this term is what matters more than anything to the 55-year-old.