Jose Mourinho has defended Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku’s recent profligacy.
Lukaku scored 11 goals in his first ten games since joining the club in the summer, but has struck just four times in 19 games since.
The striker is one of 20 players yet to miss a single minute in the Premier League this season, but only ten of those are outfielders, and Lukaku is the only striker.
It was reported on Friday that the manager feels the Belgian has lost some of his pace due to putting on too much muscle.
But Mourinho described Lukaku as “absolutely incredible” at his press conference.
Asked if he was able to rest Lukaku, Mourinho replied: “No I can’t.
“The boy is tired. He’s physically a monster, but not a machine, and he’s feeling it.
“First of all, people don’t have to be grateful to Romelu, I have to be, not you, not the supporters, not the pundits.
“I have to be, and the other day I said 19 matches in the Premier League, now I say 20 matches in the Premier League, playing 90 minutes, I think for a striker, any player, he’s absolutely incredible.
“If you are a central defender, a holding midfield player, where you can control you’re energy, positional play, you can resist and survive.
“But for a striker to play 20 matches in the Premier League, 90 minutes, I have to be grateful.
Jose: “We [played Lukaku and Ibrahimovic together] against Burnley and we will do that in some more matches if we need to do it, but I think for both of them to play together, we really need them to be at their best level.” #MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 29, 2017
“Is he unlucky in our box in recent matches? He was in the picture. It was not a direct influence on just him, but he was in the picture in some of the last goals we conceded, but it’s a consequence of a player that really needs a little rest.
“But the guy is fantastic for me and for the team and gives absolutely everything and I’ve no critics.”