Romelu Lukaku has brushed off criticism from leading football pundits that he is a flat-track bully who struggles against the best teams in the Premier League by claiming he relishes the opportunity at Manchester United to test himself against the top teams in the country and in Europe.
The 24-year-old striker was criticised in the wake of United’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, a dull affair that failed to live up to its lofty billing and one where Lukaku struggled to make the most of the few opportunities that came his way.
The Belgium international’s blank against their fierce rivals led to his record against the “big six” being dragged up, with Lukaku scoring just 15 goals in 57 matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and United – the latter of which came during his six seasons with Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion and Everton.
Lukaku is taking no notice of his record to date against those sides though, and insisted after Saturday’s stalemate that he now relishes the big games since joining United because they are a side who should expect to win those type of matches.
“I know expectations are really high but that is something I relish,” said Lukaku. “When I was at Everton we had a different mindset going into games. Sometimes it was difficult against some teams when you play not to win and you don't really create chances.
“Now I am in a team who want to win against big teams so I think the situation will change.”
United, who take on Benfica this week in the Champions League with the chance to make it three wins from three, have already played defending European champions Real Madrid this season in the curtain-raising Uefa Super Cup, where Lukaku got himself on the scoresheet in a 2-1 defeat by Zinedine Zidane’s side.
Having seen his initial £75m transfer to Old Trafford questioned through an uncertainty of whether he has the talent to star on the biggest stage, Lukaku drew on the goal against the Champions League holders as a defence against the criticism.
“That was the game when everyone was looking at me thinking 'Will he do it?' That game freed me from everything,” he added.
“A lot of strikers miss bigger chances than me but with me it is always, ‘Rom did this, Rom did that’.
“That is the standard I've set myself. It is something that happens in football and I am relaxed about it.”
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