José Mourinho described striker Romelu Lukaku as "untouchable" in his pre-match conference ahead of Tuesday night’s clash with Benfica.
Lukaku has got off to a high flying start to his Manchester United career, scoring 11 goals in his first 10 games. However, the Belgian has not scored in United’s last five matches and was the subject of groans from fans at Old Trafford during their 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
“I think Romelu is one of the players who should be untouchable in terms of respect from everyone” said the United boss.
Mourinho says he must protect his players
“It’s not one goal or one ball that hits the post or one shot saved by the opposition goalkeeper that defines Romelu’s contribution as low or top level. He’s playing extremely well for us and I have to protect my players when I feel they deserve it.
“Romelu always deserves it because what he does for the team is fantastic, and playing football for a striker is not just about scoring goals. So, untouchable in my team and also in the support and respect he deserves from the fans.”
Reporters asked Mourinho if he felt Lukaku, who signed from Everton for a fee of £75 million in the summer had a quiet game against Tottenham.
“I don’t feel he was quiet at all,” replied Mourinho. “Ask [Jan] Vertonghen, [Toby] Alderweireld and [Eric] Dier if they thought he was quiet – and they are some of the best defenders in world football.
“Whether he’s scoring goals or not scoring goals is all that some people analyse. But I didn’t think he was quiet at all.”
Manchester United host Benfica at Old Trafford tomorrow, (31st October) in a game that could see the Red Devils qualify for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League depending on the result of the other game in Group A. The match kicks off at 19:45 GMT.