Manchester United vs Benfica - Jose Mourinho claims Romelu Lukaku is 'untouchable'

Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2017 by PA

Romelu Lukaku is "untouchable" in Jose Mourinho's eyes - and the Manchester United manager believes fans should see the striker in the same way.

Signed from Everton at an initial cost of B£75million, the 24-year-old hit the ground running at Old Trafford with 11 goals in his first 10 matches for the club.

The striker has since failed to score in his last five matches, with apparent fan agitation in Saturday's 1-0 win against Tottenham getting under Mourinho's skin.

The United boss said it was unfair that fans "don't support him so much" as, whether he scores or not, the Belgium international makes a difference - frustrations he repeated ahead of the Champions League clash with Benfica.

"The fans are the fans, and they pay their ticket and are free to express themselves however they want," Mourinho said.

"But my job is, when I feel they deserve, to protect my players and I feel Romelu is one of the players that should be untouchable in terms of the respect from everyone.

"It's not one ball that hit the post or one save by the opposite goalkeeper that can make Romelu's contribution below the top level.

"He's playing extremely well for us and yes, I have to protect my players when I think my players deserve it.

"Romelu always deserves it because of what he does for the team, what he does for the team is fantastic. Playing football for a striker is not just about scoring goals.

"So for me he is untouchable for my team and untouchable also in the support and the respect that he deserves from the fans."

United will wrap up a place in the Champions League last 16 if they gain a better result than third-placed CSKA Moscow do against Basel.

Benfica have lost all three Group A matches to date but Mourinho is expecting a tough evening, having edged past them 1-0 after a goalkeeping mistake in Portugal a fortnight ago.

"Our aim tomorrow is basically to qualify," he said. "Ten points would be OK for qualifying but our main aim is to finish first in the group."

Mourinho has no fresh injury concerns. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones have spent time on the sidelines lately but both came through the Tottenham game unscathed.

United midfielders Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba remain out through injury, as does Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.

Benfica boss Rui Vitoria has backed young goalkeeper Mile Svilar to respond positively to his "trial by fire" at the hands of Manchester United.

A fortnight ago in Lisbon, 18-year-old Svilar carried Marcus Rashford's free-kick over the line to hand United all three points from their Champions League trip to the Portuguese capital.

But Eagles head coach Vitoria is convinced his teenage stopper is ready to put his debut mistake behind him.

He told a pre-match press conference: "Svilar had a trial by fire - it was his first game in the Champions League. He's only 18, a very young age.

"But we only talk about him being 18 because his identification card says that. He actually shows maturity above his actual age.

"We are calm. Mistakes can happen to any player, whether young or older, but when we have maturity and quality we can face any situation and go into games with great conviction.

"He knows that to have a rosy future he will have to pass through these kinds of doors. He will play his part and he will be ready."

Luisao will miss out after being sent off against United at the Estadio da Luz but home fans may well get to see his fellow defender Ruben Dias - a reported target for Mourinho - in action.

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