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Defending Romelu Lukaku’s goal-scoring record against the Premier League’s top six

An argument against criticism aimed towards Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku for his goal-scoring record against top-level opponents.

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02 Jan 2018, 10:15 IST
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Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League
Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League

It goes without saying that Romelu Lukaku is currently the Premier League’s most under-fire marksman.

The Belgian may be one of Europe’s most talented goal-scorers. But, the past three months would’ve taught him that part of being a striker for a club as big as Manchester United includes constant judgement on quality and critique of every performance by both fans and the media.

One of the main points of criticism aimed at Lukaku recently has been his lack of consistency in front of goal.

The former Chelsea striker may have opened up his first season in United colours with 11 goals in 10 competitive appearances, but his last 10 games in all competitions have yielded just three goals.

Another record that Man United fans remain unimpressed with - and just can’t seem to let go of - is their £75 million man’s goal-scoring stats against the Premier League’s top six.

Lukaku has received a large amount of criticism from a number of fans and pundits, going back to his time at former club Everton, for struggling to be as prolific against the top sides as he is against the so-called smaller ones.

To date, the striker has managed just 15 goals in 57 matches against England’s elite, with the 24 year-old’s influence in games of such magnitude largely restricted.

Still, it can be said – in Lukaku’s defence – that his poor record against the Premier League’s best is not entirely his fault, in fact, there is very little Lukaku can do on his own to improve it.

Moving from Everton to Man United was obviously a huge step-up for the striker, as the Red Devils are very evidently the better of the two clubs. However, there remains a noticeable similarity between the Everton side Lukaku played for and the United team of today, in how they approach games against top sides.

A best-foot-forward attacking approach is rarely taken at Everton against big opponents. Even with Lukaku leading the frontline, the Toffees mostly took up a defensive stance in the big games with the sole target of avoiding defeat. As a result, Lukaku often found himself very isolated upfront, as ball possession was dominated by the opposition, with goal-scoring chances hard to come by.

One would’ve expected that to change with his £75 million move to Old Trafford, as United are renowned for taking the game to their rivals. However, it has unfortunately stayed the same.

José Mourinho almost always opts for a defensive approach similar to Everton's, as already witnessed this season and the fact that it actually works wonders for him means Lukaku will remain a very lonely figure up the pitch in these big games.

Unless United create a good, counter-attacking break or finally go toe-to-toe with their rivals, goal-scoring opportunities will remain hard to come by for the forward and considering just how much he thrives off service, criticism shouldn’t entirely be aimed at him.

Red Devils fans may resent this thought. However, imagine Lukaku played for Manchester City or even Liverpool, two sides that consistently adopt an all-or-nothing approach in games against their top rivals. Surely then, his record against the top sides would’ve been far better, as goal-scoring service and reduced defensive duties would’ve been available to him.

Lukaku is a Man United player and the focus from fans and pundits – but mostly fans – shouldn’t be on tearing the Belgian’s confidence down but retaining faith in him, as Mourinho has on a number of occasions, and trusting that he can and will build on his current tally of 14 goals in all competitions, when he returns to full fitness.

That his record against the top sides isn’t at all flattering shouldn’t be a factor in determining his true quality as, come May, the striker will most likely be the man with the numbers.

When it comes to goals, Lukaku’s numbers simply don't lie.

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