Former Manchester United defender Paul Parker believes Romelu Lukaku will be benched in the Champions League when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is fit to return.
Ibrahimovic recently signed a new one-year contract at Old Trafford after last season was cut short by a serious knee injury. In the meantime, Jose Mourinho paid £75million to bringing Lukaku from Everton, and the Belgium centre-forward has scored four goals in his first four Premier League games with the Red Devils.
But Parker believes Ibrahimovic is better suited to the demands of the Champions League and believes “without a shadow of a doubt” that Lukaku will be replaced when the veteran Swede has fully recovered.
Ex-England defender Parker wrote in his Eurosport column: “Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given a new contract at Manchester United for a good reason: and I believe that reason was to help the club win the Champions League this season.
“There were some who thought Ibrahimovic might never play again when he damaged his cruciate ligament in a Europa League match against Anderlecht in April. Romelu Lukaku has started the season like a steam train and United could easily have waved Zlatan goodbye. But he is being kept around because United want to win the Champions League this season and he will be instrumental if they are to have any chance.
“There’s a few players in that United squad who have very little experience at this kind of level, particularly in the attack: Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial spring to mind. Lukaku worries me a bit as the most important thing in Champions League football is ball retention and to kill the game, especially if you get a goal in front. Patience is vital. He doesn’t strike me as that kind of player – at least at the moment. It’s a very different task to playing in the Premier League where he is undoubtedly one of the best strikers of the past five years.
“That’s why I think Zlatan could play a bigger role in Europe than he does in the Premier League this season. If he comes back in November, December or January – whenever it may be – then when United start the knockouts in February, providing they make it, it will be Ibrahimovic who leads the line and Lukaku will be on the bench. without a shadow of a doubt.”