Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend thanks to another late goal scored by Anthony Martial. It was the impressive header from Romelu Lukaku that set up the winner as he claimed his third league assist of the season, to go with his seven goals.
The first substitution Jose Mourinho made was to replace Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who had another poor performance, for Jesse Lingard. With 20 minutes to play, Marcus Rashford was taken off for Martial. This decision was met with boos from different sections of the crowd. With five defenders on the pitch, as well as two holding midfielders, the supporters weren’t happy to see Rashford taken off.
After the game, Mourinho laid in to the supporters, making the bizarre claim that they hadn’t supported Lukaku.
I would like the supporters to explain to me why they don’t support him so much because he gives everything. I think it is not fair when scoring the goal or not scoring the goal makes the whole difference. I don’t think it is fair at all. So, I’m a bit disappointed – but not with him. With him (I am) very pleased.
Did Mourinho honestly interpret the dissatisfaction over the decision to take off Rashford as a lack of support for Lukaku? There was one moment in the game when Lukaku failed to hold the ball up, which he had done repeatedly, which lead to some groans from the supporters. The manager surely can’t think that fans aren’t allowed to show frustration without it meaning they are lacking support for a player?
In his press conference ahead of United’s game against Benfica, Mourinho again reiterated this false claim.
The fans paid their ticket, they are free to express themselves the way they want to express. But my job is to protect my players and I think Romelu is one of the players that should be untouchable in terms of the respect from everyone. It’s not one goal or one ball that hit the post that can make Romelu’s contribution below the 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.
What’s he trying to achieve here? Falsely lead Lukaku to think the fans aren’t behind him? Give Lukaku a kick up the arse after he’s gone five games without a goal? Galvanise the supporters to show more support to Lukaku than they have been doing already?
Whatever he’s up to, I wish he would find a different tactic.