‘Top players tend to play through those dips in form’: Gary Neville urges Jose Mourinho not to drop misfiring Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku despite barren run
Manchester United legend Gary Neville has insisted that Jose Mourinho mustn’t drop striker Romelu Lukaku despite his barren run at Old Trafford.
There are big question-marks over whether Lukaku deserves to face former club Everton on Sunday because the £75million Belgian hasn’t scored in eight matches and is without a home goal since March.
But Neville insists the best way for Mourinho to restore Lukaku’s confidence is to let him play his way back into form, and blames the lack of goals from poor service into the centre-forward.
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku is going through a barren run in front of goal
‘I think if you’ve got a player that has proved himself over a long period of time, you’ve got to keep playing him,’ said Neville, a former United captain under Sir Alex Ferguson and now an influential television pundit on Sky.
‘Let’s imagine it was Wayne Rooney at Manchester United. You would play him through bits of bad form and continue to give belief because you know full well they’re still contributing when they’re not playing well.
‘Unless a player like Lukaku is feeling so down that he feels as though a break will do him good, you do try and keep them playing. Top players tend to play through those dips in form.
‘The longest period I had was six months after the Vasco da Gama game at the Club World Championship (January 2000) when I made two mistakes.
‘I lost my confidence for the six months going into the European Championship but I kept on playing through that period and in the end I came out of it at the other side.
‘You can say there are two ways of dealing with Romelu. Bringing him out and giving him a rest, or is that making it worse.
‘You’ve always got that challenge with players who have built up that credit and we know Romelu Lukaku is one of Jose’s favourite players.
‘We know he probably thinks not scoring in six or seven games is going to happen at some point so let’s accept it when it happens and come out the other side. I thnk that’s probably where Jose’s at at this moment in time.’
Mourinho talked about Lukaku’s lack of confidence after United’s disappointing 1-0 home defeat against Juventus on Tuesday and the 25-year-old player has said himself Belgian team-mates are more in tune with his game than at United.
Neville has sympathy with the powerful striker, feeling he’s not always getting the service at United though he accepts Lukaku could also make more happen himself.
‘What I would say is the quality through central midfield at United isn’t good enough. The speed of play, lack of inventiveness,’ added Neville, speaking at the launch of former Class of 92 team-mate Ben Thornley’s autobiography.
‘There are two things. Would you want more from Lukaku? Yes. But would want better service to him? Absolutely
‘The play through midfield is predictable. When I see midfielders play it out to full-backs, that is the easy pass. Some player would always give to the full-backs.
‘The reality is that should be the last option. The first option should be to play through the lines, to the feet of a striker or a winger.
‘To play to Ashley Young or Luke Shaw means effectively starting the attack again. That’s the safe option. That’s when the game stops for me. Nowadays all teams are organised, when the ball is played to them, they all shuffle across.
‘You lose the momentum. I think it is a balance between Lukaku not being in good form and the players not doing well enough in and around him.
‘Rashford and Martial would ask Lukaku to show for them more. But he would say he wants better quality. It think there is a quality issue.
‘Paul Scholes has said for six or seven weeks when other people have been talking about defensive issues, where is the quality in the attacking part. These players we have got.
‘Jose Mourinho must be pulling his hair out. He is a manager whose career is prided on consistency. He has been that for 14 years. Now he hasn’t got a team that is consistent. Every weekend is different, Brighton, Watford away, West Ham, the second half at Chelsea.
‘Even within games, their form is different from one half to the next. The first half against Tottenham, incredible. Best 45 minutes of football I’ve seen at Old Trafford for five years. The next 45 minutes, desperate. Then you are back down again.’
Mourinho’s options should he give Lukaku a rest this weekend is to start with Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial as United’s main striker.
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