Manchester United return to bad habits when Lukaku is up front ahead of Rashford

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started Romelu Lukaku as Manchester United’s centre-forward for just the second time during his caretaker reign at Old Trafford for the visit of Burnley on Tuesday night.
United have been blowing teams away with their rapid football under Solskjaer, but against the Clarets – especially in the first half – there was a return to the ponderous attacking play of the Jose Mourinho era.
It was United’s worst performance since the other match Lukaku started up front under Solskjaer, the sleepy 2-0 FA Cup third round victory over Reading at the start of January.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

That United struggle so much when Lukaku leads the line is no coincidence; his movement is not good enough to dislodge opposition defenders, his touch is unreliable and his physical presence up front sees his team-mates slip back towards the more direct style Mourinho preferred.
The Belgian showed at the Emirates Stadium last Friday night that he can be a useful presence out on the right wing – where he has more space to move onto the ball.
But the nature of that Burnley performance showed that Marcus Rashford must remain as United’s first-choice centre-forward from now until the end of the season.

(Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)

The England international pulls defenders around, offers a threat in behind and quickens up United’s attacking play; and to top it off, he has been in devastating goalscoring form under Solskjaer.
If Anthony Martial or Jesse Lingard need a rest, Alexis Sanchez should come into the side and the former Arsenal man should be the first-choice replacement up front should anything happen to Rashford.
It simply keeps United motoring along far quicker and fits better with what Solskjaer wants his United to be.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.